The best thing about 2009 for Blake Wood may be that it is almost over. But the year is coming to an end with an encouraging sign for 2010.
The right-handed pitcher who starred at North Gwinnett and Georgia Tech obviously remains very much in Kansas City's plans.
Wood was promoted to the Royals' 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 minor league draft in December and guaranteeing his first trip next year to major league spring training in Surprise, Ariz.
After a season hampered by forearm and elbow issues, the 24-year-old showed encourage signs of bouncing back in the Arizona Fall League despite final stats that weren't all that impressive.
"He's a guy with a power arm and he preformed very well in the fall league," Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore told MLB.com. "He's got a fastball (that is) 95-to-97 (mph) with a slider and an overhand curveball."
Wood hasn't put everything together consistently, though, and injuries have set him back. He was limited to 17 games, including 13 starts, for Northwest Arkansas of the Class AA Texas League in his fourth minor league season, going 2-8 with a 5.83 ERA.
The third-round draft choice in 2006 was 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. He closed with three scoreless appearances out of the bullpen and had 12 strikeouts in 142/3 innings for the Surprise Rafters.
Wood, who may move from the rotation to the bullpen, was rated the Royals' No. 10 prospect by Baseball America going into 2009.
He was ranked No. 4 in 2008 after overcoming back issues. He led the Texas League with two shutouts two years ago and had 139 strikeouts in 144 innings.