Hometown Team: Pitcher Looks To Excel With Boyhood Team

Kyle Wright, Braves Spring Training 2019 - photo credit Bryan Green on Flickr

The Wright family of New Market, Alabama have always been avid Atlanta Braves fans.

And what a time to do so. Taught the way by parents Roger and Belinda Wright, brothers Mitchell, Trey, and Kyle got to see oodles of wins, division titles, and even some Hall of Famers.

However, the new generation will feature one of their own. Kyle Wright is the Braves top pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline, after he was selected by the Braves fifth overall in the 2017 draft. Jason Woodell ranked Wright 9th overall (5th ranked pitcher) in his preseason Braves Top 50 back in December. It will be interesting to see where Jake Berry ranks Wright in his upcoming midseason Top 50 column.

Just one year later, Wright debuted for the Braves on September 4, 2018. To begin 2019, Wright claimed a spot in the Braves rotation to start the season. While the season has gotten off to a bit of a rough start for the 6-foot-4 right hander and he is playing with Triple-A Gwinnett currently, Wright is still giddy to be part of his childhood team.

“I can remember on draft day, I was hoping I got there to be honest with you,” Wright said. “I was hoping that they were going to be willing to pick me. It turns out that they did. It was awesome for me, and awesome for my family. It was awesome for my friends back home. Growing up in Alabama, pretty much everyone is a Braves fan too.”

While ticket requests certainly come in the many for Wright, who’s hometown is just over three hours away from Atlanta, he remembers the watching games in a much more intimate setting growing up.

“My whole family and I can remember watching Braves games in the living room with my brothers,” Wright said. “My dad coached baseball, so ever since I was old enough to start playing, that is when I was playing. I have enjoyed it ever since.”

While admitting this might get him some heat from the pitching community, Wright’s favorite player growing up was Chipper Jones. When he got the opportunity to meet the Braves icon for the first time, Wright called it “surreal” at first, but realized quickly into the conversation that Jones was “a really good guy” and just another guy within the organization that wanted to see him succeed.

With Jones in his corner, Wright dominated Minor League Baseball and showed the Braves that he belonged in the big leagues to start 2019. However, in three starts with the Braves he allowed 15 hits, 10 walks, and 11 runs in 14 innings of work. He had two tough starts, with a strong outing sandwiched in between. On April 6, Wright tossed six innings, allowing just five hits and two earned runs to the Marlins.

However, after allowing four walks, eight hits, and six runs to the Mets on April 12, Wright was optioned back to Triple-A to work out some kinks. While the Triple-A time got off to a bit of a rough start as well, Wright has posted games with a WHIP under one for three of his past four starts. Two of those went at least six innings.

At this point in the season, Wright said that he is feeling good. So good that he admitted that he has seen a jump in his fastball velocity out of the blue. He said that he is currently sitting between 94 and 99 miles per hour while mixing in a four-seam and two-seam fastball. He said the trick so far is trying to learn how to pitch with a couple extra miles per hour.

“I have always been able to throw the ball hard,” Wright said. “This year, it is just sitting there. It is crazy, and I am just trying to reign it in and not get too wild or sporadic with it.”

One thing that stands out with Wright is that his two-seam fastball added over three miles per hour in his second two starts in Atlanta, according to PITCHf/x. It was also the four-seam fastball that allowed hitters to do the most damage in his first taste in Atlanta this season. Of his 119 four-seam fastballs that he threw, the league hit .450 with a 1.050 slugging percentage in 2019. He had much more success with the 20 two-seamers her threw, allowing just .167 with just one single allowed. Of the eight extra base hits allowed, six were on four-seam fastballs, including three home runs. Wright struggled with command as well in the beginning and threw the four-seamer 50 percent of the time when behind in the count to a left-handed hitter and 65 percent when behind a right handed hitter. Basically, he was predictable, hitters were waiting on the four-seam fastball, and they did not miss it.

While he is awaiting his return to Atlanta, Wright is able to recount his debut against the eventual World Series champion Red Sox. He was working out of the bullpen after being an expanded roster call up and worked two strong innings that day. However, there was something missing in the stands.

“I was out of the bullpen, and my family came for the first three games and I didn’t get to pitch,” Wright said. “My mom had to go back to work. My mom, dad, and brothers all had to go home. Of course, I pitched the next day, but fortunately, I had some close family friends that were able to come. Two of my high school coaches and another of my best friends got to come to be there.”

He called it a dream come true, even if his parents were watching it on the television. While they were not there in person, it may have been fitting that they were watching in the living room where Wright’s love for the game and the Braves began.

Ryan Palencer is a lifelong baseball fan who covers the Triple-A International League upper level MiLB prospects. He is located in Indianapolis, which features the AAA Indians. Ryan has covered Minor League, Major League, and All-Star games with Pirates Prospects prior to joining Prospects1500. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPalencer.

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