Eric Wood was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB draft, following which he immediately became the Pirates top third base prospect. With Pedro Alvarez graduating from prospect status in 2010, Wood joined a group of minor league third basemen that did not include any noteworthy names. Being the best of a subpar group was not what Wood wanted to propel him to the MLB level, but rather the development of his offensive and defensive skills.
Wood was drafted out of Blinn Junior College in Texas, where he played third base and was listed as a member of their pitching rotation. While Wood did not pitch much in college, he had a good enough arm to get the Pirates attention as they went through the draft process. After four seasons in the minor leagues for the Pirates, Wood is now set to make his Triple-A debut to start the 2017 season. Typically this marks being on the door step to a Major League debut, as prospects who earn their way to the Triple-A level in the Pirates farm system are just months away from earning their first MLB call-up. While Wood has not taken the Grapefruit League by storm the way Jose Osuna has done recently, he has shown plenty of ability by taking good at bats against quality MLB starting pitchers over his first two games with Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
When Wood joined the Pirates organization, most of the third basemen throughout the Pirates minor league system were middle infielders playing third base, or organizational players filling roster spots across the various levels. Wood has yet to dazzle anyone with his skills in the full season leagues, but he has quietly developed into a solid professional baseball player. In the process of accumulating a lifetime minor league batting average of .255, Eric Wood has shown a very good eye at the plate. With a walk rate of better than 7% at every stop in the minor leagues, Wood has contributed to his minor league teams by getting on base even in seasons where he did not get as many good swings as he would have liked.
Some may consider it a black mark on his record, that he had to repeat the Double-A level in the Pirates organization. The second time around though, Wood was able to master the level by showing the most power he had produced in a single season throughout his minor league career. With some areas of his game that still need work, Wood will head to Triple-A Indianapolis to put the finishing touches on his development. The uncertainty surrounding Jung-Ho Kang’s re-entry into the United States, could give Wood the opportunity to make his MLB debut in 2017.
When Wood first joined the Pirates minor league system, he posted high error totals in each of his first two seasons. Until his error totals started to decline, his underwhelming offense had him on track to become an organizational roster filler. With his breakout offensive season for Altoona in 2016, followed up by a great performance in the Arizona Fall League, Wood saw his prospect status revive quite quickly. It was not enough for him earn his way onto the Pirates 40-man roster, in an offseason where he was left exposed to the rule 5 draft at the winter meetings. Finishing among the Arizona Fall League leaders in hitting, was not enough to convince the Pirates or any other team that Wood was worthy of a spot on a 40-man roster. This all led to him getting a non-roster invite to Pirates camp this spring, along with earning a spot on the Canadian WBC roster. Wood appeared in seven games for the Pirates this spring, before leaving to join the Canadian WBC team. He recorded three hits in 15 at-bats, with a home run, a double, two walks and six strikeouts. After joining Team Canada, Wood put on quite a display in their only exhibition matchup against the Yankees, with two homeruns and a double in four plate appearances.
With the Canadian team on the brink of being eliminated from the WBC, Wood is now in line to return to Pirates camp to continue his preparation for the biggest season of his professional baseball career. By recording hits and taking comfortable at-bats against both Carlos Martinez and Julio Teheran, Wood has come a long way in his quest to show that he belongs in the conversation for an MLB roster spot at some point in the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At age 24, Wood currently projects as a player who has the ability to provide an MLB team with at least league average everyday play at the third base position.
Without the dazzling ability of a young player like Manny Machado, Wood is in position to model his game after the man currently ahead of him on the depth chart for the Pirates. With similar size and ability to David Freese, it may be in Wood’s best interest to look to him as a mentor in his efforts to produce a finished product at the MLB level. The ideal scenario for Wood is to produce his best offensive showing in the minor leagues at Indianapolis this season. This would give him a chance to carve out a career similar to what Freese has produced so far, which would include starting it off by breaking into MLB as a part-time player to launch his career.