Prospect Smackdown: Brandon Wood vs. Ryan Braun

Prospect Smackdown: Brandon Wood vs. Ryan Braun

Background and Intangibles
Wood:  Brandon Wood was drafted by the Angels in the first round in 2003, out of high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Well-known to scouts as an amateur, he was renowned for his glovework in high school but vaulted up to first round status when he started hitting for power his senior year. After a mediocre season in the Midwest League in '04, he slammed 53 doubles and 43 homers in 2005, then followed that up with a strong season in the Texas League in '06. The Angels have nothing but good things to say about his work ethic and intangibles.
Braun: Braun was a college star at the University of Miami, named Freshman of the Year by Baseball America in '03 and selected fifth overall in the '05 draft. He's continued blasting the baseball as a pro, hitting particularly well after his promotion to Double-A at mid-season last year. Like Wood, his work ethic and intangibles are fine, and he has tasted nothing but success as both an amateur and pro.
 Advantage: Both of them were high-profile amateurs, both of them have done well as pros, and neither has a major personality problem. This rates as Even.

Physicality, Health, and Tools
Wood: Wood is a righthanded hitter and thrower, born March 2, 1985, listed at 6-3, 185 pounds. He's had no major injury concerns and, aside from an August wilt in his first pro summer ('04), he's been durable. An excellent athlete, he's developed plus power due to an uppercut swing and excellent bat speed. He has power to all fields and despite his high strikeout rates, he is not a pure pull hitter. He'll attempt to work the count, but he'll also go through phases where he is overaggressive against breaking balls and changeups. He isn't likely to hit for a high batting average, but he should produce more than enough power to compensate. Wood has decent speed and while he won't be a huge stealer, he can't be ignored, either. Defensively, he has the range, hands, and arm strength to handle shortstop without trouble, but has been moved to third base this year due to the needs of the organization. With some experience, he should be a very good, perhaps excellent, defender at the hot corner.
Braun: Braun is a righthanded hitter and thrower, born November 17, 1983, listed at 6-2, 200 pounds. He's had some minor elbow trouble but no serious injury concerns. Braun's swing does not have the same uppercut that Wood does, but he also produces plus power to all fields. He has shown a knack for hitting for average as well, and his strike zone judgment should be at least average in time. He does a better job handling breaking balls. He also runs well and should be able to steal double-digits, at least early in his career. Although Braun has a strong arm and a good measure of athleticism, his defense at third base is still problematic, due to shaky footwork. Some scouts believe he'll have to play the outfield eventually, but personally I think he'll be able to handle third base if they are patient with him, granted he'll never be a good glove.
 Advantage:  Wood has slightly more raw power, but Braun will hit for a higher average. Braun will probably steal a  few more bases, but Wood is superior defensively at third base. It's damn close, but I think that overall I will give Wood a very slight edge here since he is a slightly better overall athlete.

Performance and Polish
Wood: Wood entered '07 with a career mark of .285/.353/.537, including .276/.355/.552 last year in 453 at-bats in Double-A. His relative OPS last year for Arkansas was solid at +19 percent compared to the Texas League.
Braun: Braun entered '07 with a career mark of .308/.367/.549, including .303/.367/.589 last year in 231 at-bats in Double-A. His relative OPS last year for Huntsville was outstanding at +39 percent.
 Advantage: Braun has outhit Wood thus far with a better balance of offense and more polish with the bat. Wood has more polish than Braun defensively. On balance, Braun has the advantage here.

Projection
Wood: Wood projects as a 30-40 homer hitter. His batting average and OBP could vary considerably depending on how his strike zone judgment develops. At age 22, he is several years from his prime and has considerable development potential left. PECOTA upside VORP is 122.4
Braun: Braun projects as a 20-25, perhaps 30 homer hitter, capable of hitting .280-.300 at the major league level. He probably won't hit as many home runs as Wood, but his batting average should be higher. At age 23, he has one less year of development potential. PECOTA upside VORP is 94.0
 Advantage:I agree with PECOTA that Wood has more projection left, due to his age and body type.

Summary I rate them as even on background/intangibles. Wood has a slight edge on tools. Braun has the edge on current performance. Wood has more projection. Overall Wood comes out just a hair ahead.

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