Braves relief pitchers have been dropping like flies. One idea floating around was that they’d make do with a short pen until Brandon Beachy comes back in a couple of weeks, move Kris Medlen back to the pen where he has spent a lot of time and carry on. Then Kris Medlen got hurt last night so it’s on to plan B. Assuming it wasn’t plan A all along: They’ve called up Alex Wood from Double-A Mississippi.
Wood was the Braves’ second round pick last season and he’s an interesting fellow. A 22 year-old lefty, the 6’4″ Wood has but 23 games under his belt across the Sally League and Double-A. In that time, however, he’s put up a 1.72 ERA while striking out a batter an inning, all as a starter.
An intriguing guy to watch. If, for no other reason, than how he does may go a long way toward determining whether Atlanta will be looking for bullpen help at the deadline.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.