A funny thing has been happening with Brandon Wood and the Angels in the past week. No, they didn't finally wise up and start giving him regular playing time in the majors, he is still quite well entrenched at Triple-A Salt Lake. However, he is doing so at shortstop.
For some reason, Brandon Wood has returned to his natural position of shortstop for the first five games of his current sentence at Salt Lake, followed by one game at designated hitter. The Angels have said nary a word about the reason this switch has taken place or how long it is going to last, which naturally has Angel fans spinning conspiracy theories left and right.
We do know that the Angels obviously consider Wood a viable option at third base, since that is the only position he played in his sparse major league appearances this year. We also know that the Angels haven't moved him to clear the way for another hot prospect. In his six games back in Salt Lake, the Angels have used three different players (Freddy Sandoval, Matt Brown and Adam Pavkovich) at third base. That leaves nothing but crackpot theories as valid explanations:
- Wood is being showcased for a trade. An intriguing possibility, but why would they start with this now? The Angels are finally getting healthy and playing well, who could they possibly be targeting at this early point of the season. Wood is the biggest trade chip the Halos have, so they would only use him to snag a big-time proven player, but no team is ready to pull the plug on the season in mid-May. If we were in early July, I might buy this theory, but not now.
- The Angels want to have him replace Erick Aybar at shortstop. Aybar has certainly caused his share of frustration with his mental gaffes, but he will always be a vastly superior defender to Wood, something we all know Mike Scioscia values. With Aybar actually swinging the bat well now (his average is currently over .300), the need for an offensive upgrade is vastly diminished. Plus, it is painfully obvious that Scioscia considers Maicer Izturis a preferable replacement for Aybar and has absolutely no sense of urgency to insert Wood into the line-up. While some fans might prefer Wood over Aybar, all the facts indicate that Aybar's job is safe for the time being (at least from Wood).
- The Angels want to expand Wood's versatility so he can play a more meaningful bench role. This one doesn't work for a lot of reasons. First, if that is the plan, why all the secrecy? Second, while the Angels love for their players to have position flexibility, shortstop isn't a huge need for them and they already know that Wood can handle it, though he certainly could use the refresher course. Instead, they should have him working out at thinner positions like first base should anything happen to Morales.
- The Angels have already made up their mind to re-sign Chone Figgins and want to move Wood to a position that isn't as blocked. This is just the most ridiculous theory out there. It is way too early for the Angels to be making such decisions, especially with how up and down Figgy has been. Plus, it isn't like Woody needs a huge amount of time to get used to his old position again, so such a move could have been staved off for a few months or at least steadily eased into. Frankly, I think the Angels have no intention of keeping Figgins, which is why they are so lax about trying to find a spot for Wood on the big league roster. They know he'll get his shot next season when they let Figgy walk.
- The final theory is that the Angels are just trying to keep Wood happy. He has been jerked around a bit this season and last and might finally be showing signs of frustration with the organization. What better way than to placate their top prospect by letting him move back to his natural position, if only for a little while?
Personally, I think #5 is the most likely, with maybe a little bit of #3 mixed in. The Angels have nobody at Triple-A that projects as a major league shortstop, so they are just taking an opportunity to reacquaint him with his old position. Not only might it make him happier, but it also gives them a little more depth if Aybar and Izturis (both injury prone) get hurt. I don't think the Halos would call Woody up again until they know they can promise him some playing time, so they just want to be sure he is ready if/when that day comes. Don't be surprised if he returns to third base on a more permanent basis in the near future.
What do you think, let us know in the comments below.