With our next prospect we see someone who many have pegged as a dominant reliever down the road, and others have contested should remain a starter for the foreseeable future.
No.38, RHP Hunter Blake Wood, 24 yrs old
Born: Aug 12th, 1993 in Rogers, AR
Height/Weight: 6’1” 165 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: by the Rays after being selected in the 29th round of the 2013 draft by the Rays
Twitter handle: @hbwoody44
Baseball America Rankings
- Ranked as high as 24th post-2015, and was ranked 27th post-2016 among Rays prospects. He did not make the Top 30 list in 2017.
*Ranked 20th on 2016’s MLB Pipeline Top 30 Rays Prospects list, did not make 2017’s list.
DRB Writers ranking
- High: 25
- Low: 54
Hunter Wood: Abilities
- Fastball (avg 15.2” vertical movement in AFL) can touch 97, works well in the mid-90s
- Curve that earns praise and criticism
- Cutter (Fangraphs grade of 55)
- Work-in-progress but improving Change up
- Abilities notes: The knock on Wood (pun intended) is all about the frame, which isn’t really fair because he hasn’t shown cracks in performance or longevity - it’s all projection. And I’d add that with the way pitchers are being used in MLB, with expectations of 5-6 innings being set by many, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t hold up as a starter.
However, it doesn’t mean that’s what I expect the Rays will ask Wood to do and it doesn’t mean that’s where I think he should work.
Joined the Rays by way of....
- The 2013 MLB draft with the 878th overall pick. Wood had been drafted in 2012 by the Red Sox in the 32nd rd, 991st overall, but did not sign and attended Howard College instead before re-entering the draft.
Latest Transaction: recalled RHP Hunter Wood from Durham Bulls October 2, 2017
Note - The Rays added Wood to the 40-man roster in November 2016 in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Although he was called up for 1 day in 2017, Wood was in the 1 game for exactly 1 hitter, Nomar Mazara who he promptly got to pop up in foul territory, this after Chase Whitley allowed 2 runners on and in the 9th inning, no less.
Facts, Honors, and Awards
- Only thew in 12 games for Howard College after turning down a deal with the Red Sox and managed 27 IP, 35 H, 19 ER, 18 BB and 33 SO, 1.89 Whip, 6.33 ERA.
- Ian Malinowski profiled Wood’s 2015 AFL stint Pitch/Fx stats here.
- Interestingly, Brooks Baseball has Wood’s velocity in his one MLB outing as follows: FB (2) 90 MPH and 89 MPH with 12.54 vertical movement, Breaking Balls (3) all between 84 and 85 MPH with 4.09 vertical movement.
- From July 21st onward, Wood was used in a relief role, this after he struggled with a 6.23 ERA and 1.68 Whip in AAA. He took to relieving very well, working 23 innings as a RP and allowed 15 hits, walked 8, while striking out 25. Of note, he worked 2 or more innings on 7 occasions as a reliever (13 total outings), which may be a sign of things to come.
- Loves his pets, as this Tweet points to, and apparently has them ramped up to hunt right alongside him,
Hunter Wood 2017
|Sv (SvO)||0 (0)|
Stats Notes: The most concerning aspect of Wood’s season in 2017 was the increase in average against to .257 (up from .175 in 2016) combined with increase in HR/FB to 8.9% in AA and 12.7% in AAA. On the flip side, while working in relief hitters hit .177 against him, struck out 27% of the time, and it lowered that HR/FB to just 1.17 (tiny sample caveat, but encouraging indication).
Interesting Comparison: Cody Allen
- At the same height from the right side, Allen may have more weight to him for now but it’s something Wood may add as he matures. More importantly, if Wood does work in relief going forward he’ll do so with a similar arsenal to Allen who works his fastball in the mid-90s and also has an above-average curve to pair it with.
- Allen was also selected later in his draft, going in the 23rd rd to the Indians, but unlike Wood he was developed throughout as a reliever, so his minors stats can’t be compared directly with Wood’s aside from the 21st July onwards portion. It just so happens that Allen spent 24 outings in AAA at the same age, providing with somewhat of a small comparison.
Wood RP in AAA (23 yo): 23 IP, 15 hits, 8.6 BB%, 26.9 SO%, .177 AVG, 1.00 Whip, .211 BAbip
Allen RP in AAA (23 yo): 31.2 IP, 22 H, 7.8 BB%, 28.0 SO%, .190 AVG, 0.98 Whip, .244 BAbip
Since that time, Allen has earned 142 saves, which in turn gives you pause about what Wood’s ultimate role may be if he does stick to a pen role.
Notes for 2018 and beyond
The 2017 season was a true roller-coaster ride for Wood, but in the end it seems that we received some clarity as to how he would be used going forward. It’s not absolute, but it seems to be heading the way of a relief role since Wood’s value as a RP going forward seems to exceed what it may be as a starter. He may also get a shot to start when a spot starter is required in the early going as well, just as Pruitt did in 2017.
With the poise and competitiveness that Wood carries himself with on the mound, working his way to an eventual setup role attempt seems almost inevitable. His stuff can be downright nasty at times and we expect that to be the norm in a relief role. This role is what’s landing him higher than others on this list. Had the Rays not provided us with the glimpse of what he’s capable of as a RP, he may have been further back.
As great as he was in relief in 2017, he’s going to be competing with some pretty great relievers for roles in the Rays pen. Wood’s advantage vs some others will be the 40-man roster spot he already holds, but he still has to compete with Ryne Stanek, Jaime Schultz, Diego Castillo, Chih-Wei Hu, Andrew Kittredge, Jose Alvarado, Austin Pruitt and Ryan Yarbrough. That’s some stiff competition.
Having said that, Wood has the tools to be one of the most dominant of the bunch if he puts it all together. He may not have Stanek’s heat, but he’s very hard to square up. Should the Rays deal Alex Colome at some point in the near future, there’s little doubt that Wood will come up in the conversations about who could earn a closing role.