During Spring Training, a buddy and me kept talking about how the young "Core" the Pirates had in place filled out much of the lineup but we weren't sure what would happen at short. With this uncertainty in mind, we kept asking who was going to emerge as "Shortstop X?" Would Cedeno keep his head on straight all year? Could d'Arnaud make the jump to the bigs? Had Mercer passed him by? Well, as we sit here on August 9th, the guy I am most intrigued by is Brandon Wood.
I'm sure most on here already know this stuff but if you didn't follow him before joining the Pirates, here's a crash course on Brandon Wood. In 2005, as a 20 year old, Wood became the first minor leaguer to collect 100 XBH in a single season. He was rated as the #3 prospect in all of baseball. When he got to the majors in '07, he was bad. Really bad. Unspeakably bad. Last year he played a half season in the majors. He struck out 71 times and walked 6. His .382 OPS was the lowest for any player with at least 243 PA's since Bill Bergen's 1911 campaign. He was DFA'd by the Angels in April. That's the bad. Here's the good...kinda. On May 31st, Wood pinch hit against the Mets and hit a 2-run double as the Bucs beat the Mets 5-1. Since then, Wood has come to the plate 135 times. In that span he has hit 7 HRs(a 26 HR pace given the 502 PAs Cedeno got last season) and posted a .268/.333/.463 line. His strikeout rate is 21.5% which is high, but not awful at all for a guy with power and his walk rate is 8.9% which is, wait for it, above league average!!!!
Maybe this is just one of those flash in the pan moments for players or maybe the Pirates caught a little luck here. It has been reported that Wood has made some mechanical changes that are helping him to be a major league hitter. Hurdle said that Wood's new swing has given him better plate coverage. What I have seen (I'm no scout) is a guy who seems to have a plan at bat and is taking the ball to all fields. I don't think he looks overmatched by big league pitchers and, if nothing else, he has earned a chance to start for a while and he's a guy worth watching the rest of this season.