This article probably should be titled “Who is Alex Wood and Why Should I Care?”, but we’ll stick with the standard format…for now.
The Braves boast a starting five filled with young arms that are still in the early stages of their professional career. They’re old enough to have a decent track record, but still young enough not to have a ridiculous injury history in most cases (looking at YOU, Brandon Beachy).
The rotation is fronted by Kris Medlen and Mike Minor. Both should and will be drafted in the first eight rounds or so of most fantasy drafts. They’re both solid four category contributors with few, if any, red flags to be seen. Fantasy GMs should draft both with confidence.
Which brings us to the third slot in the Braves rotation. If you were told that a pitcher who maintained a 8.24 K/9 and a 2.18 BB/9 over 185 2/3 innings with competent ratios, you would be interested in that pitcher, right? Then why the lukewarm response to Julio Teheran? Is it because his last name sounds similar to the Iranian capital? A man isn’t responsible for his last name. You think I picked “Dewoskin”?
Teheran unveiled his slider for the first time in his MLB career last year. It had mixed results. He managed to generate a 37.94% whiff/swing percentage with a .179 BAA when using his slider, but it also came with a .193 ISO against. Teheran’s slider was a boom or bust pitch in the truest sense.
He also profiles as a fly ball pitcher with a 0.92 GB:FB ratio and a 41.0% FB %. His HR:FB ratio checked in at 10.1% last year. We really need more data to know if that’s a high number for Teheran.
Part of the issue is that Teheran has been around seemingly forever. He just turned 23 on Monday (Happy Birthday, Julio!), but he’s been on the mind’s of fantasy GMs since he pitched across three levels in 2010. Fantasy GMs are addicted to the idea of “The New.” Fantasy GMs want to be the first to be on to some unknown slugger or power arm that no one else has heard of. Everyone has heard of Teheran and most are weary of waiting for him. He’s a legit four-category pitcher and has a chance to outearn Medlen and Minor while coming off the board a few rounds later.
Brandon Beachy will likely occupy the fourth slot in the Braves rotation. Beachy is supposedly fully healthy and has announced that he will be pitching without restrictions in Spring Training. Beachy came back at the end of last season to make five starts and it was obvious he was pitching with training wheels still on. He only used his slider a handful of times (8.3% slider usage rate last year) and stuck with his fastball or change-up almost 80% of the time last year.
His K/9 only ended up at 6.90 after five starts. This came without using his slider as much as he had in previous seasons. His slider is a pitch that generated a 24.30% whiff/swing rate in 2012.
When he did use his slider in 2013, it was hit. Hard. Beachy only used his slider 36 times in 30 innings. Three of those pitches left the stadium and he gave up a .385 BAA when using his slider last year. It’s clear that his slider wasn’t MLB ready after Beachy’s long layoff. It’s worth monitoring in the spring, but Beachy posted a 7.56 K/9 in 2012. There isn’t a good reason why he can’t return to that level in 2014, if he’s fully healthy.
Alex Wood is likely to occupy the fifth starter spot and this is where fantasy GMs should be looking for a sleeper in the Braves’ rotation. Wood tossed 77 2/3 innings at the major league level last year. He made 31 appearances and only 11 starts. The only issue with Wood is his lack of data at the major league level. Hitters slashed .273/.340/.366 against Wood as a starter. The 22 walks as a starter is concerning, but Wood only walked five as a reliever. He doesn’t have a history of wildness in the minors (2.37 BB/9 in 10 starts at Double-A), so it’s likely a function of small sample size or fatiguing early due to a lack of time as a starter.
Wood threw 30 innings as a starter in six August starts. He posted a 28:9 K:BB ratio with a 0.90 ERA. Again, it’s a small sample size, but it proves that Wood can appear to be competent in a starting rotation for at least a month.
He only threw 140ish innings across three levels in 2013 and will likely throw with an innings cap around 160-170 in 2014. He’s a worthy add in the late-middle rounds of a draft for a fantasy GM looking to get some cheap K’s with competent ratios.
The job is essentially Wood’s to lose. His only competition is someone named “David Hale.” Hale is a 26 year old not-a-prospect with limited upside. Hale isn’t exactly a chump (he went to Princeton!), but it’s pretty obvious that the organization values Wood over Hale at this point in their careers. Hale might end up in the rotation if there’s an injury to a starter or poor performance from Wood, but Wood should be in the rotation in early April and he should be on fantasy rosters in every applicable format.