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The Curious case of Brandon Wood

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Brandon Wood’s career with the Los Angels of Anaheim came to an end Tuesday as he was “designated for assignment” by the club. DFA if you are not familiar is the major league baseball equivalent of purgatory – the Angels now have ten days to trade Wood to another club, cut him outright, or if no other club claims him on waivers, assign him to one of their minor league clubs.

What might have been?

I am sure that if not Wood his father as well as many Angel fans and fantasy baseball players will be asking that for years. Wood was a first round pick in 2003 by the Angels out of Horizon High School in Scottsdale Arizona where he had given local baseball followers a vision of his future as a professional player with prodigious home runs.

He played sixty games in Arizona and Provo, Utah for Angel rookie teams after signing a contract right away. The following year Wood played at A Cedar Rapids and had only eleven home runs, but forty six extra base hits and sixty four RBI. Wood also strikes out a lot and started a string of five straight years of 100+ strikeouts at Cedar Rapids.

2005 was really the coming out party for Wood. At A Rancho Cucamonga, right outside Los Angeles county, Wood hit 43 home runs and knocked in 115 runs while hitting for a career high .329 average. After four games at AAA Salt Lake at the end of that season Wood had an amazing homecoming. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League, the premier developmental league of MLB, and played shortstop for the Scottsdale Scorpions. In twenty nine more games back home, Wood hit .307 with fourteen more home runs (fifty seven! for the year) and thirty two RBI. The fourteen home runs, many of which his father cheered for in the stands as I watched, are still an AFL record and that year, Brandon had twice as many as now familiar major leagues stars like Dan Uggla, Stephen Drew, Corey Hart, or Matt Kemp.

As the Angels opened spring training in 2006, Wood was still the talk of Arizona and most major league scouting staffs and fantasy players who had been introduced to him through that great season. Then Angels General Manager Bill Stoneham must have fielded many calls about Wood from other clubs but despite not having him on the major league club out of spring training, refused to trade him away.

Wood spent that entire season at AA Arkansas, hitting twenty five home runs along with forty two doubles and two triples and driving in eighty three more runs. Again the phone rang, and again Wood remained an Angel…..a minor league Angel at that, this time in AAA Salt Lake, with another twenty three home runs before a September callup to Anaheim where he hit only .169 but had one home run in his thirteen major league games.

The up and down cycle between Anaheim and Salt Lake continued for three more seasons before Wood started and perhaps ended the season as an Angel. Who knows what the ups and downs cost Wood; who knows what moving him from shortstop to third base and back; who knows what the lack of success for such a brilliant prospect cost him. He may well find his way to another major league club willing to give him a fresh start and see if he can hit those home runs in major league parks or is just a AAAA hitter.

Who knows what might have been for Brandon Wood?

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