GWINNETT, GA — The Atlanta Braves 2017 first-round MLB Draft pick, Kyle Wright, had a strong outing Sunday against the Buffalo Bisons. He flashed many of the qualities that have made him one of the top right-handed prospects in baseball.
Wright came in at No. 6 on my Minor League Ball Braves midseason top-20. Here’s why:
This one will likely get me in trouble. And to be fair, he is too low. Wright remains the only Braves top 20 prospect I have not seen live as a professional (sans Tristan Beck who has not yet pitched as a professional), and I simply can’t put someone in the top 5 based on other people’s scouting reports and comments.
On paper, Wright is sensational. Our own John Sickels gave him a B+/A- in his midseason update. Here’s why:
Age 22, first round pick from Vanderbilt in 2017; 4.10 ERA in 94 innings in Double-A, 97 hits, 96/40 K/BB; not a terrific season but not bad, either; has had several dominant games but gets hit hard enough often enough to keep his ERA a tad elevated; inconsistent command seems the biggest issue, strikeout/grounder combination is promising; watch for any improvement in K/BB over the second half; stock down a bit but still a fine talent.
Anywhere you look, Wright is a top three prospect in the system. The stuff is there. Hopefully when he gets to Gwinnett, I can see the consistency that makes him special and give a more fair ranking to the pitcher he seems to be.
Wright is listed at 6’4”, 200 and that is a fair assessment. He stands to the first base side and there is little to worry about in his mechanics. It’s a simple delivery, nothing unusual, and he repeats it easily.
When the pitches are where he wants them, they are something special. His fastball sat 93-94 touching 95 when he reared back several times, including twice in a row for a big strikeout of Anthony Alford in the third. It’s interesting to note that he wasn’t blowing the fastball by people too often. It moves, and comes with power, but didn’t feel like a power pitch, if that makes sense. The curve was plus, maybe plus-plus, all afternoon as he was able to take a lot off it, settling in at 79-80 and getting both chases and freezing batters with it. The slider moves, as high as 86, but there were a few that got away. It mostly looks like a plus offering and both fools and gets hitters swinging. Lastly, his change has some nice fade, but was not used as often.
Wright seemed to not have any problems mixing things up and sticking with what works. He’d come out some innings and fire off fastball after fastball, but then other innings, like the seventh, he came out firing three-straight breaking balls. He seems to have confidence in his entire arsenal as they continue to improve. He held the velocity into the seventh, hitting 93 at least seven times on my count, but his command began to waver around the 90th pitch, walking a batter on four-straight pitches after a first-pitch strike. It’s important to note that those four pitches were probably his worst four of the day, and not very close.
He attacks the zone, and until later in that seventh inning, he didn’t miss badly. He also was hit often. The first inning was a quick one, but everyone made contact. It was loud, but not very hard at any point, as most balls were hit in the infield or to the shallow depths of the outfield. The first two doubles he allowed were sharply hit ground balls and not big gappers or towering fly balls. He induced seven ground outs and five pop outs, which is not the norm as he is a ground ball-heavy pitcher thanks to the movement on his pitches.
Easy 1-2-3 for Kyle Wright. Looks sharp, all three outs ground balls, this one on Vladimir Guerrero, JR. #ChopOn #Braves #BlueJays pic.twitter.com/posuHHrFmM— Wayne Cavadi (@UofDWayne) August 19, 2018
The second inning was impressive. Two singles and a double began the inning and the Bisons were in business, plating a run with no outs. Instead of going fastball-happy, Wright regrouped, settled in and pitched, striking out the side on breaking balls.
It was a strong performance, but not a dominating one. At times he looked in complete control, like that quick first inning, or the nine-pitch third and fifth. Other times he looked vulnerable to contact. It was certainly one to be happy with, going seven innings of two-run ball, allowing five hits, two walks and striking out six. He landed 58 of his 96 pitches for strikes, but for the most part was around the zone mixing things up.
I’m not sure this outing, my first, was enough to push Wright past Mike Soroka as the top righty in the system, but it’s easy to see why so many people have him ranked the way they do. Already over 130 innings pitched on the season, it’s possible Wright doesn’t see a September call-up as this was his first real professional full-season haul (though it’s not out of the question by any means). That said, he should have a shot at the Opening Day roster in 2019, and at the very least make an early season debut next year.