Baltimore Orioles rookie starting pitcher Mike Wright had an impressive big league debut over the weekend, pitching 7.1 scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing four hits and zero walks while fanning six in a Sunday afternoon 3-0 victory for the Marylanders. Wright did not receive a huge amount of attention pre-season except in the Orioles community, so let's take a quick look at what we can expect for the future.
Wright was drafted by the Orioles in the third round in 2011 from East Carolina University. His college career was erratic: he had problems as a freshman and sophomore with combined ERAs over 7.00, but he took a large step forward in his junior year, posting a 2.79 ERA in 100 innings with a 75/30 K/BB. He was rated as something like a sixth round pick by many clubs but the Orioles thought he had untapped potential and called his name in the third.
He reached Double-A rapidly but was inconsistent, posting a 4.91 ERA in 62 innings in 2012, but he took a step forward in '13 (3.26 ERA, 136/39 K/BB in 144 innings for Bowie). This is the report on Wright from the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book:
He has an 89-94 MPH fastball, sometimes higher, mixing the heater with a slider, curveball, and changeup. None of his pitches are excellent but none of them are bad, either, and he has an advanced ability to work the strike zone and hit his spots. He’s also quite durable and eats innings without getting hurt. Wright profiles as a prototypical fourth starter who could be a very fine inning-eater. I can’t shake the feeling that he could exceed those expectations at some point, but I will stick with the Grade B- from last year.
That didn't quite happen in 2014. Moving up to Triple-A Norfolk, he ran up a 4.61 ERA with a 103/41 K/BB with 159 hits in 143 innings last year. However, he did improve as the season progressed, leading to this conclusion in the '15 book:
He had some rough moments in Triple-A, especially early in the season, but improved as the campaign progressed, ending the season with a 1.90 ERA and a 40/10 K/BB in his last eight starts. He’s 25 now and we need to shift to a Grade C+, but Wright can still be a useful inning-absorber with a chance to have some surprisingly good seasons.
2015 has been strong thus far: 2.64 ERA at Norfolk before his promotion with a 30/9 K/BB in 31 innings.
Wright's scouting reports have changed somewhat. His fastball is faster than it used to be: PITCHf/x clocked him as high as 97.6 Sunday and averaging 93.6, up two-three MPH from where he was a couple of years ago. He has a full arsenal of secondaries with a slider, curve, and change-up and all three have improved since college. He has no trouble throwing strikes, he can hit any velocity spot from 69 to 97 MPH, and he looks to be durable.
Right now it looks like "exceed expectations" thing is working out, albeit a year later than anticipated. The scouting reports will get around of course and hitters will adapt, but Wright has shown the ability to learn and adapt himself. He has come a long way from being a guy who had trouble getting Conference USA hitters out in 2009 and 2010 and should not be under-estimated.