Since 2018, Bryse Wilson was shuttled between Triple-A and the Majors by the Atlanta Braves. Despite showing flashes, he was unable to find enough consistency to carve out a role and stick at the major league level. He finally got that opportunity in 2021, but only after he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates at the deadline.
The Braves took Wilson in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Orange High School in North Carolina. He put himself on the map with a strong showing at Rome in 2017 and then advanced through three levels in 2018 to reach the majors. Wilson spent most of the 2019 season at Triple-A but did make six appearances for the Braves. He was on the outside looking in for most of the 2020 season but came up with a huge performance in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. He failed to capitalize on that outing, though, and was one of the early cuts from the Spring Training roster.
Wilson was among the group of young pitchers that were competing for the final spot in the Braves rotation. However, he ultimately failed to distinguish himself from the rest of the group.
Interestingly, projection systems have been consistently much higher on Wilson than what he’s managed to put up at the major league level. Coming into 2021, Wilson had a very weak 133 ERA- / 125 FIP- / 127 xFIP- line in the majors (albeit in fewer than 50 innings) and a not-particularly-great 21-start stint at Triple-A in 2019, but was still projected to put up 0.8 (Steamer) to 1.6 (ZiPS) WAR, in few enough innings that his WAR/200 range was 2.0 to 2.7 (though he’d probably never make it to 200 innings of work). That’s really solid, so there was still a lot of hope.
Wilson filled in as a spot starter early but allowed nine earned runs over his first 12 innings, getting shelled in three straight starts. He put together a couple of solid outings in May, including a legitimately great start against the Blue Jays on May 11 but then allowed a combined 10 runs over his final nine innings (three starts) in a Braves uniform. One of those starts was the result of poor fortune (11.25 ERA but mid-4.00s FIP and xFIP), but the other two were pretty unfortunate. When he wasn’t starting for the big league Braves, Wilson appeared in 10 games for Gwinnett, posting a 4.23 ERA and a 4.70 FIP in 55 1⁄3 innings. Apparently in need of a fresh start and an opportunity elsewhere. Atlanta shipped Wilson and minor league pitcher Ricky DeVito to the Pirates at the trade deadline in exchange for reliever Richard Rodriguez.
Wilson showed more of the same in Pittsburgh, making eight starts down the stretch while posting a 4.91 ERA and a 5.35 FIP in 40 1/3 innings. The 4.96 xFIP he posted across those eight starts was technically his best team-season mark of his career, but it’s still not very good.
Bryse Wilson 2021 Stats
|2 Tms - 16||74.0||14.3||6.8||5.35||5.49||5.62|
What went right? What went wrong?
The story of Wilson’s short career played out in 2021. He showed flashes but not enough consistency with his command to sustain prolonged success. It was clear that his opportunities in Atlanta were fading so it is good that he was able to go to a young team in Pittsburgh where he will have the opportunity to establish himself without being subjected to the ups-and-downs of the shuttle. Once again, though, 2021 was an example of the performance and peripherals not matching the minor league track record. Maybe those things will align a little better one day, but it looks like it’s not going to be in an Atlanta uniform at this point.
Wilson continues to have a bunch of challenges associated with his profile and stuff, challenges that have seemingly not fazed him in the minors but stack up in the majors. None of his pitches really have an appealing shape, and his slider has become more and more cutter-ish without any notable gains in effectiveness. He seems to be able to locate some pitches, but which pitches those are seems to shift here and there.
With all that, though, probably the biggest “what went wrong” is that the Braves traded Wilson for a guy who pitched even worse than he did after the trade, and who has less team control at a higher cost. Maybe Richard Rodriguez will bounce back, but you have to wonder whether the Braves could’ve gotten similar mileage from Wilson in a relief role as they did from Rodriguez, who pitched so poorly he didn’t even make the playoff rosters over the likes of some surprising additions, like Dylan Lee.
Road to the Title
Despite his general misadventures on the mound, Wilson did manage to have positive WPA in three of his eight starts for the Braves in 2021. His best start of the year, WPA and cWPA-wise, came against the team he’d later be traded to. On May 22, he pitched into the seventh against the Pirates, allowing just a run on a solo homer. Wilson made a modest lead stand up until the Braves pulled away in the middle innings. While it wasn’t his best start by his own performance (he pitched better against the Blue Jays with slightly worse results in the outing prior), it was the one that arguably had the biggest impact for the team.
Hey, look, he got a hit, too!
Alas, Wilson’s time as a Brave ended with some pretty negative WPA and cWPA in 2021, but as usual, he showed flashes.
Outlook for 2022
Wilson should be in the mix to be in the Pirates Opening Day rotation in 2022. Maybe that’ll be the year that he puts up what’s been expected of him.