Chicago Cubs: The real Kid K is exposed as he begins his career
Upon landing in Chicago’s minor league affiliates, it became clear that Wood possessed a serious talent and raw potential. In 1996, the 19-year old was regarded as the Cubs No. 1 prospect and ranked in the Top 15 in all of baseball. While playing in Single-A Daytona, Wood started 22 games and had a 10-2 record.
In 1997, he saw a call-up to the Double-A team in Orlando, where he began to consistently top out the radar gun around the mid-90s, striking out opposing batters by the boatload. However, despite his high strikeout rate, a weakness was quickly exposed. He seemed to have an inability to find undeviating command, which resulted in a high volume of walks.
Regardless of his struggles with finding the strike zone, the Cubs promoted Wood again in ’97 to their Triple-A team, the Iowa Cubs. He again held a winning record (4-2) but the walks allowed took a toll and inflated his ERA to near 6.00.
Meanwhile, in the Majors, the Cubs were in the midst of an abysmal season, finding themselves dead last in the division. Fans grew vocal about the team potentially calling up Wood from the minors, hoping to see him pitch on the Major League roster, in order to have something to cheer for in a lost season.
But, with the looming incarnations of two new expansion teams, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks, set to hit the field at the start of the 1998 season, the front office opted to keep him in the minors in order to protect him and avoid losing him to the expansion draft.