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Austin Wood Off To A Hot Start And Other Prospect News

Conger's climb back to Anaheim is off to a quick start: he's launched two bombs and racked up four RBI's through his first three games.
Conger's climb back to Anaheim is off to a quick start: he's launched two bombs and racked up four RBI's through his first three games.

Austin Wood kicked off the season with a dominant start for the Kernels opening night, racking up 10 K's to 1 walk over five innings of one run ball.

I finally had a chance to sit down and watch his outing from start to finish last night via MILBTV, and... Wow. Last winter's scouting reports got some of it right: Wood features big time velocity -- the stadium gun had him at 98, while Wood himself reported 97 in a post game interview -- but control escapes him entirely at times. He beaned a batter, threw behind another guy, bounced some fastballs in front of the plate when trying to hit spots low in the zone, and added a wild pitch for good measure.

On the other hand, there were some positive developments that make the preseason scouting reports outdated: when he didn't lose his mechanics, Wood's command actually looked pretty good, allowing him to hit his spots with surprising frequency, especially up in the zone; in addition to the velocity, his FB had tailing action in on the hands of righties, which produced good groundball totals; and finally, his slider looked, really, really good, so good that I'd rate it as flashing plus. He mixed those pitches well, racking up plenty of swinging strikes with both offerings.

I'd now put Wood in the same category as John Hellweg, Fabio Martinez Mesa and Ariel Pena: they all have electric stuff, giving them a chance to be elite, impact-caliber talent at the MLB level; but they have lots to prove in terms of command, mastering a third pitch and showing more overall consistency. All of these guys are likely to see their perceived value continue to vacillate wildly in the months ahead depending on who sees them when.

In other happenings, number five prospect Nick Maronde pitched well in his full season debut, going four innings while allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five, and for the most part kept the ball on the ground. He was lifted early, so for whatever reason the Angels are really watching his pitch count.

Other notable prospects Matt Shoemaker, Michael Clevinger, Don Roach, and Ariel Pena were all solid in their first outings as well. Mystery man Fabio Martinez Mesa was supposed to start today for Inland Empire, but for some unknown reason the Halos brass lifted him at the last second. Max Russell made a spot start in his place, outmatching Dodgers' starter Ted Lilly over five innings of one run ball to secure the win.

On the hitting side, Mike Trout has gone 8 for 16 with three walks, Kaleb Cowart's gone 6 for 13 with three extra base hits (he just missed an HR to dead center on Thursday), Hank Conger's gone 5 for 13 with a double and two HR's, Chevy Clarke's gotten on base in 6 of 13 tries and swiped four bags without getting caught, and Jean Segura's four for ten with an HR out of the Arkansas three spot. Segura's going to need some help in that Travs line-up, which is looking awfully light without Calhoun's bat.