Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jason Wood (Part 2)

Ten different Texas Rangers prospects appeared for the Surprise Saguaros in the 2011 Arizona Fall League campaign. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Myrtle Beach skipper Jason Wood, who recently spent two weeks with the Surprise club. This piece is part two of the two-part interview feature.

Jason Cole: Because of Olt's success in the Fall League, I think it's safe to say that Leury Garcia kind of flew under the radar. But he had a tremendous amount of success offensively. From your observation in seeing him for two weeks, what was the difference for him? Where was that offense coming from?

Jason Wood: In all honesty, I think the offense was coming from where he was playing at on defense. I know this sounds kind of funny, but he was more relaxed. He had body language––he wasn't so uptight. Playing second base, he felt a little bit more comfortable. He was hitting in the nine hole. He was getting three at-bats rather than five at-bats per game. He showed some power out there, too.

One thing it could be is that a lot of these pitchers who haven't seen him may have challenged him a little bit more and stayed away from some of his weaknesses because they hadn't seen him enough. He was able to capitalize on that and put up some good numbers in the Fall League because of that, I think.

Leury did a good job. He stayed on top of the ball, too. And like I said, he was driving some balls––which is not something that we actually, as a player development, want to see out of Leury. But at the time, if it's winning ball games and he's driving in runs, then so be it. I think the biggest factor was that he was very comfortable out there playing second base, and I think it really relaxed him at the plate as well.

Cole: Garcia is a guy who, when he came into the organization in '08, kind of learned to switch hit on the fly. At this point, do you really notice a difference in either side?

Wood: I think he's more comfortable from the left side. I don't know if that's his natural slot or what, but just from what I've seen, I think he's a little more comfortable from the left. He tends to get a little bit more body and become a little bit bigger from the right side and try to become a little bit more of a power hitter in a sense. I think that just shows that he's a little bit more comfortable from the left side. He's closer to first base, and he knows that he really needs to stay on top of the ball. I think he's more comfortable from the left side, to tell you the truth.

Cole: You touched on his defensive game. His defensive tools are certainly elite. How has he progressed in terms of slowing the game down and cutting down on his errors?

Wood: The first day when I saw him out there, I asked him. I said, ‘How do you feel?' And he said, ‘You know what, I feel really comfortable at second base. I like it.' He almost made a comment to where it's easy. And I think what he meant by that was that he had more time. He didn't feel rushed. He could play a little bit deeper.

The kid has got unbelievable range and unbelievable speed. The only thing is that he's not going to be able to utilize his arm as much. Well, in a sense though too, that's not always a bad thing. I think he relied on his arm a little too much at shortstop. And he's going to be a shortstop––he's going to play shortstop. But I just think that he was able to be more comfortable out there. He felt comfortable around the bag even though his back was to the first baseman when turning double plays.

He had no problem with that––his footwork was very good and he was very agile around second base. You never know. You could move him around and see more of a super utility player. I wouldn't be surprised if we throw him out in center field sometime this spring, as well.

Cole: Miguel de los Santos had a good campaign out there and led the league in strikeouts. Overall, what were your impressions? And how did you feel the fastball command was coming along?

Wood: The fastball command was unbelievable. That's the one thing I wanted to touch on. It's something that he didn't show on a consistent basis when he was in Myrtle Beach this year. But the two starts that I saw him in the Fall League, he was definitely commanding that fastball early in the count and down in the zone. That only did wonders for his changeup and his breaking ball. He got so many free swings on the changeup and breaking ball because he was commanding that fastball as well as he was.

Cole: I wasn't able to see de los Santos in the AFL, but from looking at the pitch f/x data, it seemed like he was throwing his curveball a little bit harder than in the regular season. Was that the case when you were out there?

Wood: To tell you the truth, I did not see him throw too many curveballs. He threw a few. I can probably say that, in the two starts I saw, there were maybe 10 curveballs that I saw. I saw not the big huge 12-to-6––it was maybe a little bit firmer. But it was definitely still sharp, and it was down in the zone. He had good feel for it. The biggest thing was that he had a feel for all three of his pitches when he was there. And he had good command with all of them, and that really helped out.

Cole: I also wanted to touch on Johan Yan. He was left off the 40-man roster recently, but obviously you and the entire organization hope that he's able to stay past the Rule 5 Draft. In his second season as a sidearmer, how much improvement did you see from the start of the year through the Fall League?

Wood: He was pretty consistent for me the entire year. Like I said, he just kind of went where he left off in Myrtle, and I guess he took that on to Frisco and did as well, too. So he has good command. He throws that three-quarter type deal. He works fast. He gets his ground balls.

I think one thing that he could do a little bit more––and I know this is weird to say––but just from what I've seen and some of the people I've talked to, he could maybe use that curveball a little bit more when he needs to. He really gets comfortable with that fastball. He has got such good movement with that fastball and that changeup that sometimes he forgets about that curveball that he's got. And it's pretty darn good, too, coming from the side there.

Cole: He began his career as an infielder, then was an over-the-top pitcher, and now he just finished his second year as a sidearm reliever. How do you feel he handles the mental aspect of the mound? It seemed like he was able to handle just about any situation just fine late this year with Frisco.

Wood: It never really bothered him, from what I saw. He was like ice out there. You knew when Yan came out there––there were so many times this year that Brad Holman and I felt that we just had to go to Yan because we needed that ground ball or needed that double play ball. With that sink on his fastball, we knew we were going to get it. We didn't have to worry about him coming in and not getting a feel for the mound and walking the first guy. His command was great––he didn't walk anybody. He had that sink on the fastball, the life on the fastball, and that sidearm angle that the hitters weren't always used to. We didn't overuse him, and he just did great stuff for us.

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