Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Wood has been in the news a ton lately, even before the Tigers drafted him. In an NCAA regional game against Boston College – a game that went 25 innings – Wood threw 170 pitches over 12-plus innings. The performance, including many, many hitless innings, would draw plenty of attention anyway, but in a world where pitch counts rule, he racked up some ugly totals. Wood is still pitching as Texas prepares for the College World Series, and so far this year he has compiled a 5-1 record with a 2.19 ERA. In 37 relief appearances, Wood has collected 15 saves and 78 innings, walking just 15 and striking out 67. Wood will look to lock down the late innings for the Longhorns over the next two weeks, and if he gets the opportunities, he could set a school record for saves along the way.
Wood was routinely named to the Big 12 Academic Honor Roll, while also earning mention on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year watch list in 2007. Wood worked largely as a starter during his sophomore and junior seasons, where he was a quality arm for Texas; combining for a 15-4 record.
As a freshman, Austin was outstanding, tying Huston Street's Texas record for freshman appearances with 35, while also earning 1st Team Freshman All-American honors. Wood led the Longhorns in saves as well, which also landed him in sixth place in the conference.
Wood is a classic strike throwing machine, and it is expected that he will remain that way once turning pro. He lowered his arm angle significantly, becoming a side-arm pitcher with a fastball that sits in the 88-90 range, touching 91 with regularity. He gets good run on the pitch, and he works it low in the zone consistently. Wood's fastball isn't overpowering, but with the lowered arm angle it gets on left-handed hitters and is difficult to lift.
He also mixes an above-average change-up that keeps right-handers off balance, and it could become a plus pitch with more repetition. Wood has yet to develop a consistent breaking ball, and even in a relief role, he would be well served to get a breaking ball that can be relied upon a few times an outing. Some scouts believe he could develop a fringy slider, but it may take time.
Wood is a bulldog on the mound, and he is aggressive, refusing to back down from anybody that stands in the batter's box. He is calm under pressure and he can handle any role handed to him. Though some organizations have considered making him a starter again, he will most likely remain in the bullpen, and he could become a solid setup type or situational reliever.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG COL
With the attention on pitch counts and pitcher abuse, Wood is likely to be watched very closely by prospect watchers, to see if he has lingering effects from the abuse laid on him but the Texas coaching staff. Wood has been a durable arm throughout his career, so there is hope that the postseason demands of 2009 may not hamper his career. The Tigers may be cautious with him this year, hoping to alleviate any problems that may arise.
Wood should be an easy sign once the College World Series is complete. There is no leverage for Wood, and being drafted a few rounds earlier than projected should make him that much easier to ink. If signed in time, Wood will likely head to either Oneonta or West Michigan to get some additional relief innings in a pro environment.
Provided he remains healthy, expect Wood to move very quickly through the system, possibly starting the 2010 season in the Lakeland bullpen. He is very polished, and very mature, and that should enable him to succeed at a high level in A-ball.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.