The Braves’ top draft pick in 2017 took a huge step forward as he was completely unleashed in 2018 and pitched with absolute confidence. Kyle Wright seemingly made quick work of the minors as he ascended from High-A in 2017 to begin the season at Double-A in 2018. In Mississippi, Wright went 6-8 with a 3.70 ERA, 8.6 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9 and 1.335 WHIP. After 20 starts, Kyle was promoted to Gwinnett where he was even more dynamic in seven games, compiling a 2.51 ERA, 8.8 K/9, and reducinghis walks to just 2.5/9 to go along with a 0.802 WHIP.
Wright showcased the arsenal that made him sought after in the 2017 draft — exhibiting four plus pitches throughout the season. He threw his mid-90s fastball with tons of movement, a double-plus curveball, a slider that just dies away from right-handed hitters, and a changeup with tons of fade to lefties. He threw all of the pitches for strikes, especially in his stint with Gwinnett, and tantalized Braves fans throughout the season.
Wright made his big league debut in some rather rough circumstances when he came in September 4th against the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Wright would strike out Jackie Bradley Jr. to start his major league career. He followed that up by striking out Sandy Leon, and then got Brock Holt to ground out to first to get an easy 1-2-3 as his first major league inning. He was sent right back out (it was a four-run game and not in the Braves’ favor) his time facing the top of the lineup, and Wright showcased what makes him so special. He worked around a walk to Ian Kinsler to retire Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts on fly outs with a combined hit probability of 3%. Wright went on to to make three more appearances (Arizona, Washington, Mets) but struggled with command a bit, as he walked five batters in his next four innings, giving him a 9.0 BB/9 on the year.
The talent is clearly there and 2019 seemingly could be a huge year for Wright.
Bottom line, what did Wright do in 2018? Wright pitched across two levels (AA, AAA) in 2018 where he went 8-9 with a 3.91 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9. He went on to make his major league debut and pitched in four games in the regular season where he had a 4.50 ERA, 1.667 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, and 9.0 BB/9 in six innings. He had some pretty gnarly starts in those six innings (8.83 FIP, 6.42 xFIP, .358 xwOBA-against), but it was a sum total of just 28 batters and his last two outings came after sitting for eight and nine days without work, respectively.
Will Wright be on the roster in 2019? This is a bit of a tough one as it seems like Wright needs just a bit more polish with his command and confidence on the mound. I expect a short stay in Gwinnett before he is eventually called upon in Atlanta and becomes a mainstay in the rotation for a long time.
What will he do in 2019? I think Wright takes a giant leap in confidence in 2019 and looks like the potential ace that he can be. With some development of his changeup, he would really have a true strikeout pitch against both lefties and righties (against whom he already has a slider). After a short stay in Gwinnett, Wright will swing into the rotation where he will have his ups and downs before compiling a a line much like Sean Newcomb. I expect a mid-2s to possibly 3 fWAR season from Wright. Lofty to say the least.
Highlight of 2018:You can make a case that his ML debut was the highlight of 2018 as he faced the eventual World Champions and gave up just one walk but that honor goes to his start 8/13 when Wright put up a game score of 82 against the Louisville Bats. Wright pitched seven one-hit innings where he walked one and struck out eight.
Lowlight of 2018: In his third start of the season Wright lasted just one inning on a minor league hill while giving up four hits, four earned runs, walked two, struck out one, and gave up a homer. His 28 game score was was the second lowest of the season. His final outing of the year, where he allowed homers to both Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith probably wasn’t awesome either, but at least he put up a 2/0 K/BB ratio in that inning.