Opposite directions

Major league hopefuls Charlie Blackmon and Blake Wood have a lot in common.

Both went to North Gwinnett and played at Georgia Tech. Each was ranked as the No. 10 prospect in his organization by Baseball America going into the season.

But this has been a very different year so far for the duo.

Blackmon has enjoyed a productive first half of the season, adding to his stock.

"It's been going really well," the outfielder said.

Wood, though, can't say the same thing. The promise is certainly still there, but the results have been spotty the first few months of the season.

While Blackmon, 22, has hit .300 for Modesto in the high Class A California League, Wood, 23, hasn't enjoyed as much success as expected a level above that in the Class AA Texas League.

Wood is 2-5 with a 5.28 ERA in 12 starts for Northwest Arkansas. He has lost three straight decisions and five of his past six, with his last victory coming May 16.

The tall right-hander hasn't pitched that badly, going seven innings in three of his past five starts. But he doesn't have many wins to show for it.

If Wood's career path has leveled off a bit, Blackmon's continues its quick rise.

Blackmon was a pitcher like Wood until last year, when he moved to the outfield at Georgia Tech and became an All-ACC pick, batting .396. Colorado made the left-hander a second-round draft choice and gave him a bonus of $563,000. He hasn't stopped hitting since.

The center fielder batted .338 last season for Tri-Cities in Washington, making the all-star team in the Class A short-season Northwest League. This season he has done nearly as well for Modesto although he bypassed low Class A, skipping a level in the Colorado organization.

Like everyone, Blackmon is experiencing the ups and down of minor league life. He had a mini-slump after a recent 4-for-4 game, but bounced back with three hits Tuesday night at Stockton.

"The hardest part is being consistent," Blackmon said. "I try to keep on an even keel."

Blackmon has been at his best in clutch situations, hitting .434 with runners in scoring position. He has 10 doubles, four triples, two homers and 33 RBIs in 61 games, while also stealing 15 bases.

With his simple swing, Blackmon has struck out just 39 times in 247 at-bats. But he says that he has plenty of learning to still do at the plate.

"I need to be a little more selective, a little more polished," he said. "I can't chase pitches. I need to wait and get my pitch to hit."

Blackmon got to play in the Pacific Northwest last season and now he's seeing a lot of California.

"It's nice out here, but not as nice as back home," Blackmon said.

This is the fourth minor league season for Wood, who was drafted in the third round by Kansas City in 2006 and given a $460,000 bonus to bypass his senior season at Tech. He won 10 games as a sophomore and 11 games as a junior for the Yellow Jackets.

Wood missed the first part of the 2007 season after back surgery, but pitched a near no-hitter for Burlington in the low Class A Midwest League that August.

The right-hander was ranked as the Royals' No. 4 prospect going into last season and led the organization with 139 strikeouts for high Class A Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. He pitched two shutouts and was twice named Texas League pitcher of the week.

This season, though, hasn't produced as much success. Wood's strikeouts are down, with 41 in 652/3 innings, and opponents are batting .290.

It's the midpoint of the minor league season, however. There is plenty of time for a turnaround by Wood and Blackmon knows that a lot more hits are needed the rest of the way to keep his average at .300.



Charlie Blackmon

Position: OF

Team: Modesto (high A)

Organization: Rockies

Age: 22

HS: North Gwinnett

Update: Hitting .300 with 10 doubles, four triples, two homes and 33 RBIs in 61 games. He also has stolen 15 bases. The former Georgia Tech standout batted .338 last season for Tri-Cities in the low Class A Northwest League.

Anthony Carter

Positon: RHP

Team: Winston-Salem (high A)

Organization: White Sox

Age: 23

HS: Parkview

Update: Has won four straight decisions, lifting his record to 6-3. Has a 4.03 ERA in 13 starts. Drafted out of Georgia Perimeter College in 2005 and was 11-7 with a 3.99 ERA last season for Winston-Salem and Kannapolis.

Stephen Dodson

Position: RHP

Team: Asheville (A)

Organization: Rockies

Age: 23

HS: Wesleyan

Update: Has made nine relief appearances, posting a 1-0 record and 5.40 ERA. Has struck out 15 and walked four in 11 2/3 innings. The former Georgia pitcher was drafted in the 18th round last year, but this is his pro debut.

Tim Gustafson

Position: RHP

Team: Mississippi (AA)

Organization: Braves

Age: 24

HS: Parkview

Update: Former Georgia Tech pitcher missed out of last season recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. He has made 17 relief appearances this year, the last three from Mississippi.

K.D. Kang

Position: OF

Team: Bowling Green (low A)

Organization: Rays

Age: 21

HS: Parkview

Update: Hitting .291 with 15 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 30 games. The native of South Korea has 11 doubles and three triples. The 15th round draft-pick in 2006 played in the New York-Penn League all-star game last year.

Nathan Moreau

Position: LHP

Team: Delmarva (low A)

Organization: Orioles

Age: 22

HS: Parkview

Update: Is 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA in seven starts. Has struck out 27 in 23 innings, but walked 17. Drafted in the 11th round out of Georgia in 2008. Pitched in the New York-Penn League last year, fanning 48 in 36 1/3 innings.

Clint Sammons

Position: C

Team: Gwinnett (AAA)

Organization: Braves

Age: 26

HS: Parkview

Update: Has 22 RBIs in 30 games, batting .345 with runners in scoring position. Is hitting .228 with six doubles and three homers. Was sixth-round draft pick in 2004 and has spent parts of three seasons in majors.

Jeremie Tice

Position: 3B

Team: Lake County (low A)

Organization: Indians

Age: 22

HS: Dacula

Update: Former College of Charleston standout hasn't played since May 25 because of a sore elbow. He was hitting .240 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 29 games. He was a sixth-round draft pick in 2008.

Blake Wood

Position: RHP

Team: NW Arkansas (AA)

Organization: Royals

Age: 23

HS: North Gwinnett

Update: Is 2-5 with a 5.28 ERA in 12 starts. Last year was 8-9 with a 4.25 ERA for NW Arkansas and Wilmington in the Carolina League. Pitched two shutouts and was twice named Texas League pitcher of the week.