Braves pick Vandy’s Wright at No. 5, add Woodstock’s Waters at 41

Kyle Wright is the eighth pitcher drafted in the first round by Atlanta over the last 11 years.
Kyle Wright is the eighth pitcher drafted in the first round by Atlanta over the last 11 years.

The Braves both held form and broke it Monday night when they selected Vanderbilt junior right-handed pitcher Kyle Wright with the No. 5 overall pick of the Major League Baseball draft.

Wright is the eighth pitcher drafted in the first round by Atlanta over the last 11 years, yet the first collegiate player chosen in the first since the team grabbed pitcher Jason Hursh out of Oklahoma State in 2013.

Much like his former Vanderbilt teammate (for one season), current Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, the Braves’ latest first-rounder grew up following the team. He is from Huntsville, Ala. With a second-round pick, Atlanta selected Etowah High School switch-hitting outfielder Drew Waters of Woodstock.

“He’s phenomenal, man,” Swanson said of Wright Monday before the draft. “When I faced him when I was a junior, I thought he had some of the best stuff that I’d seen, and I always said I never wanted to face him again. He’s added more velocity and obviously he’s got a better understanding how to pitch.”

“It’s an absolute honor and pleasure to be drafted by the Braves,” Wright said. “Me and my brothers grew up being the biggest fans of the Braves, so I really couldn’t be more proud right now.”

At 6-feet-4 and 215 pounds, Wright has velocity, generally sailing his fastball in the 92-96 mph range, and adds a well-developed curveball and slider. He’ll spot a changeup from time to time.

Drew Waters was an outfielder at Etowah High School.
Drew Waters was an outfielder at Etowah High School.

Unlike the Braves’ first three draft choices last year and their first four from 2015, this first-rounder is not coming straight out of high school.

For that reason and because of what Atlanta director of scouting Brian Bridges describes as a “loose and easy” pitching motion that may not need much tweaking, his chances of quickly moving through the minor leagues may be better than recent picks.

Even former Braves pitcher John Smoltz, a Hall of Famer who was working with the MLB Network Monday night, noted that, “It looks like this guy has clean mechanics.”

Bridges said, “He’s more advanced … It’s a shorter window for him. He’s going to get that once he starts his way.”

The Braves scouted Wright while he was in high school in Huntsville, where his father, Roger, is a high school baseball coach and his mother, Belinda, is an engineer with NASA.

By MLB rookie slotting numbers, he’s eligible for a signing bonus of up to $5.7 million, although no player drafted later than No. 3 since 2012 has received more than when the Rockies paid pitcher Riley Pint $4.8 million last year after selecting him fourth.

Wright went undrafted out of high school, sporting an 88-mph fastball, plus, he said, “I was pretty set on college … I put a pretty high number on it. I knew I had some growing to do.”

Wright is the 11th Vanderbilt pitcher selected in the first round in the past 12 drafts, a trend that began when the Rays tabbed David Price in 2007.

He struggled early in his junior season, when Bridges suggested that entering his “draft year” may have caused discomfort as it may have with the Pirates’ Gerritt Cole and the Mets’ Matt Harvey a few years back.

By the end of the Commodores’ season, Wright was 5-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 16 starts.

Over his three-year collegiate career, he was 19-11 with a 2.78 ERA, 290 strikeouts and 86 walks in 255.1 innings.

Atlanta chose former Vanderbilt pitcher Mike Minor in the first round in 2009, at No. 7, and the Diamondbacks made Swanson the No. 1 overall pick of the ’15 draft.

Considering that, Baseball America and at least one ESPN baseball analyst predicted Wright as the No. 1 overall pick, the Braves scored him.

“It’s far-fetched when you get a guy who shouldn’t still be on the board,” Bridges said. “We feel real happy.”

As a long-time veteran of the East Cobb youth baseball program, Waters — whose father played offensive line for former Georgia Tech head coach Bill Curry in the mid-1980s — has been familiar to Braves scouts for several years.

At 6-2, 190 pounds, he added more than 20 pounds between his junior and senior seasons, went from one home run to 13 this spring with a .494 average. He’s quick, with 32 stolen bases in the past two seasons. The owner of a strong arm, the Braves consider him a five-tool player.

“We had him at two workouts at the stadium,” Bridges said. “We really like the switch hit-speed-power combo once he grows into his power. He can really play defense, pretty good athlete.

“He played on our scout ball team in Jupiter (Fla.), and Fred McGriff had a chance to manage him. He said this kid has some intangibles that other kids don’t. He really believes in his ability and who he is. [Waters] wants to be at the plate in big situations; he has a lot of confidence in himself.”

The draft will continue Wednesday and Thursday.

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The Braves selected Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 baseball draft. The 6-foot-4 right-hander throws a four-seam fastball in the 92-96 mph range. Wright was close friends with Vanderbilt pitcher Donny Everett, who died in a drowning accident last June. Wright is the 11th Vanderbilt pitcher selected in the first round in the past 12 drafts. The Braves selected Vanderbilt's Mike Minor seventh overall in 2009. Wright was a dominant reliever on the College World Serie