BRADENTON, Fla. – Eric Wood had his position changed for the Arizona Fall League, moving from third base to the outfield. This came after the Pirates added third baseman Connor Joe to the roster. We weren’t sure if that was just an error at first, but the move was confirmed today when Wood played in an instructs game in left field.
Wood and Jin-De Jhang were both in the lineup today, with Joe on the bench. Those are the three position players who will represent the Pirates in the AFL, starting in a little over two weeks. Edgar Santana also pitched an inning today, sitting 92-94, and touching 95, while mixing in a few mid-80s sliders. Santana is one of four pitchers who will be joining the hitters next month.
I haven’t gotten any official word on why Wood is making the switch, as I didn’t get a chance to catch up with him today, or talk with Larry Broadway about it. I can pretty safely guess the reasons as being the typical response — they want to get him more versatility (he has only played third base so far). I’m guessing it’s also more important to get Connor Joe the work at third base, since Wood improved his defense this year, while Joe spent his first year at third base since high school.
It will be interesting to see where Wood ends up to start the 2017 season. If he returns to Altoona, he would have Joe at the same level. I doubt the Pirates would keep him there for the third year in a row, but moving him up to Indianapolis can clash with MLB depth, and it’s likely he’d compete with Max Moroff for time at third. So either way, adding the outfield to his mix should help him continue getting playing time.
2016 Prep Pitchers
Three of the prep pitchers from the 2016 draft pitched today. Max Kranick was sitting 89-92, touching 93 once. Austin Shields was 89-91, touching 92 once. And the biggest velocity shown today came from lefty Braeden Ogle, who sat 93-96 in his first inning of work, dipping down to 92-95 in his second frame.
As far as “right now” stuff, Braeden Ogle is easily the best of the prep pitching group. Every time I’ve seen him, his fastball has worked in that low-to-mid 90s range, usually sitting higher earlier in the outing, and dropping down as the innings progress. That’s normal, as younger pitchers tend not to be able to hold their velocity deep into starts. But the early velocity is special, and he should be able to maintain that velocity through his starts as he gets stronger. If he improves his command and control, which is an issue right now, then he could be a special pitching prospect.
On the flip side, Max Kranick has flashed some good stuff, usually sitting in the low-90s and touching in the mid-90s. He also has a frame that could add velocity, along with good downward movement, and much better command of his pitches. Kranick is projectable in a different way, as his added strength in the future could lead to a velocity increase that has him sitting in the mid-90s, rather than just hitting it on occasion.
Finally, Austin Shields is the most raw of those projectable pitchers. He has a bigger frame, and the ability to reach higher velocity, although there’s not much room for projection here. This late in the year I don’t think much of lower velocity, and just think it’s impressive when someone like Ogle still has the in-season velocity going for him. Shields can throw harder. However, he’s very raw with the command and control of his pitches, and is more of a project than the other two.
Pitching is a game of attrition, especially when you’re drafting prep pitchers. The Pirates got a good group here, with Ogle looking impressive early, and Kranick looking like a guy who will be really impressive in a few years.