My 2014 Fantasy Baseball Preview continues with a shift to the National League East and the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves are pretty solid all at every position on the diamond heading into spring training but for a change the Atlanta has some questions on the starting staff.
While Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy have their spots in the rotation locked down, the guy fantasy owners should be keeping their eye on in camp is left-handed starter Alex Wood.
There’s a lot to like about the youngster, most notably the fact that the Braves think that highly of him that they wouldn’t include him in a proposed deal for Tampa Rays’ starter David Price.
That means Wood should be ticketed for the rotation to start the season.
That’s some pretty good news as he has some fantasy value to start the season.
Wood, the team’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2012, was impressive as a rookie last season. In 11 starts, he had a 3.54 ERA with 22 walks and 54 strikeouts in 56 innings. He was even better in relief, posting a 2.08 ERA with five walks and 23 strikeouts in 21.2 innings.
Wood has shown pretty good strikeout ability, punching out about 25 percent of batters at both Single-A and Double-A, and that carried over to the majors with a nearly 24 percent strikeout rate last year.
Although his swinging and foul strike rates were about league average, he generated a higher rate of looking strikes.
I always like southpaws with a devastating change-up and Wood has one so you should expect to see a high rate of punch outs to start the season.
He’s also a guy with a solid walk rate throughout the minors, so he should end up with a pretty solid WHIP as well.
The negative side of things is that Wood only threw 139.2 innings combined last season so you would expect Atlanta to tread cautiously and cap him out late in the season.
He also may be affected when Floyd returns so that is something to keep an eye on throughout the season.
Wood also won’t be handed the job as he will have some competition from some pretty good Atlanta arms who have had success in the upper minors, including the likes of David Hale (3.22 ERA in Triple-A), Cody Martin (3.16 ERA between Triple-A and Double-A), Aaron Northcraft (3.42 ERA in Double-A) and Gus Schlosser (2.39 ERA in Double-A).
But as pitchers and catcher get ready to report, Wood is a guy I like a lot, especially in deep leagues.
Prediction: Stop me if you have heard this story before. There’s another young Atlanta arm on the horizon. If he finds his control and wins the rotation spot in spring training, Wood will be a late-round sleeper to target in fantasy drafts. While it is true that he did perform a little better as a reliever than a starter last season, especially with his control, I like Wood as a starter this year.
Wood should see around 160 innings as a starter in 2014, plenty of time for him to pile up Ks with strong peripherals for fantasy owners.
I project him to win 12-15 games with an ERA in the low-three’s and a WHIP around 1.20. More importantly I like him to strikeout 160-175 batters.
It’s often difficult for young pitchers the second time around, but I like Wood to make the necessary adjustments and perform well in 2014. I currently have him in my Top 60 starting pitchers and Top 150 players overall.
He’s a guy you should target late in drafts but will reward you with mid-round production.
You can go back and read previous 2014 Fantasy Baseball Previews as I break down the top battles with the: