LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Less than a year removed from his career at the University of Georgia, Alex Wood has spent the past couple of weeks impressing some of the Braves pitchers that he and many of his college friends grew up idolizing.
"Alex Wood is legit," veteran right-hander Tim Hudson said. "His stuff is nasty."
Hudson's response came after he and Kris Medlen spent time last week watching Wood display his unique left-handed delivery during a bullpen session at Champion Stadium.
"I think if he makes just a couple little adjustments, it will make his stuff absolutely insane," Medlen said.
This praise by a pair of proven Major League pitchers provides some indication of the tremendous potential possessed by Wood, who was selected by the Braves in the second round of last year's First-Year Player Draft. MLB.com ranks Wood as the organization's sixth-best prospect.
With just 13 professional starts under his belt, Wood will have to gain some more Minor League seasoning. But while flashing a plus fastball with movement and an array of impressive breaking pitches over the past few weeks, the 22-year-old southpaw has shown that he could quickly rise to the big league level.
"Alex has made a good impression," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He's got a little funk in his delivery, which I think helps him. The good thing is there are guys who have funk who can't repeat. He repeats his delivery and throws quality strikes, along with having good quality stuff.
"He's got good life and a good breaking ball. Depending on the role as he moves forward, he's another guy you watch over the next year or so to determine what is the ideal role. You know at the very least he can be a quality left-handed reliever that throws real hard."
While it is too early to project whether Wood will be more valuable as a reliever or a starter, it is safe to say the Braves are looking forward to watching the development of the 6-foot-4, 215-pound southpaw, who will likely begin this season in Double-A Mississippi's rotation.
Wood began to show his promise as he produced a 2.22 ERA in 13 starts for Class A Rome last year. In Grapefruit League action, he has completed five scoreless innings and surrendered four hits, including two infield singles against the Yankees on Saturday.
"I like this kid the more and more I see him pitch," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "His delivery is funky, but it's not like [former reliever] Mike Myers' delivery, where he's trying to create some deception because the velocity isn't there. It's a funky delivery, but there is still some stuff coming out of it."
As Wood is preparing to push off the rubber during his delivery, he lifts his lead leg and angles it slightly toward second base before he coils and strides toward the plate with his long frame. Some talent evaluators see a delivery that could lead to arm problems for the young pitcher, who has already undergone Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Opposing hitters see a whole lot of legs and elbows coming at them, as Wood attempts to baffle them with a fastball that ranges between 91-95 mph or a selection from his array of offspeed pitches.
"It's definitely a little different than most," Wood said of his delivery. "It's funny how pitching is different than hitting. You see hitters do all of this crazy stuff at the plate, but as long as the results are there, nobody asks questions. Pitching is a little bit different. If somebody does something different, the red flags go up. It's definitely helped me have the success I've had. Mechanically speaking, I get to the positions I need to. I just get there a different way."
Like many left-handers, Wood has proven to be unorthodox in a variety of ways. While growing up in Charlotte, N.C., he followed the Braves and also kept his father, a Long Island, N.Y., native, happy by more passionately following the Mets.
After matriculating to Georgia in 2009, Wood developed a greater attachment to the Braves and became very familiar with the likes of Hudson and Medlen. Now, less than a year after preparing to face Southeastern Conference opponents, he is rubbing elbows with these same veterans and earning their respect.
"It's just been kind of surreal," Wood said. "People would give their right arm to have the kind of experience I've had. Learning the tricks of the trade and having them give me advice has just been unbelievable. I've been able to grow as a player every day. It's just been very special."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less