Fredi Gonzalez stated that Paul Maholm's wrist injury is likely not bad enough to force a disabled list stint, but with how poor he has thrown over the past 16 starts (5.38 ERA) I expect the Braves to put him on the DL and either recall Alex Wood or have Brandon Beachy make his season debut next Thursday against the Mets.
My reasoning for wanting Wood over Beachy at this particular moment is the performance of each in the minors this year. Beachy has not shown anywhere near the command we are accustomed to over the past few years at triple-A and until he shows that he is more-or-less the same pitcher he always has been then it makes sense to let him work out the kinks in triple-A rather than in the majors. If the team were thrust into a position where they had to make Beachy work them out in the majors then I would be an advocate of Beachy taking this start on Thursday. That is not the situation they are in though. One of their best prospects has shown that he can get major league hitters out and that he can dominate lineups in the minors, which makes him deserving of at least a few starts until we are certain Beachy is Beachy.
What I have seen out of Wood since he came up to the majors has caused me to be an even bigger believer in the lefty than I was when he was in the minors. His changeup has looked like the best pitch of any of the Braves starters this year and his command has been better than expected. Things will change once he hits the rotation, as his average miles per hour on his pitches will drop 1-3 on each pitch which does have negative effects on performance. It will also be interesting to see how he attacks hitters multiple times through the lineup, but his curveball looks efficient enough to be able to keep hitters from waiting on his fastball on each pitch.
One thing I have noticed in dissecting Wood is how much weak contact he forces as well. I did not expect a 60% ground ball rate, even if it is only a 22 inning small sample. In his professional career, he has allowed only two home runs 136.2 innings pitched. Being able to strike many batters out while getting a lot of ground balls and allowing home runs at a minuscule rate is about as optimal as it can get from a pitcher. Again, this may not be what occurs as a starter in the majors but at this point and in the Braves particular situation he deserves a shot to see if he can continue to be as dominant as he has been in every role or level the Braves have put him in.
I would not be surprised to see Wood be the team's best starting pitcher going forward if he were to make Thursday's start, and I am a big believer in Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. Wood may not have the command that either Teheran or Minor possess, but his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark and strikeout batters is better than both of the Braves' current top two. I think Frank Wren and the rest of the Braves front office has been as impressed with Wood as I am and I think if they decide to move past Paul Maholm at least temporarily, they will decide to put Wood in the rotation.