Kyle Wright might be the next Braves pitcher to benefit from an attacking mindset.
Wright, the Braves’ No. 5 overall pick from Vanderbilt a year ago, earned a spot on the U.S. Team in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C.
He’s joined by Braves farmhand and former teammate Touki Toussaint, who was on the opposing World Team, along with many of the game’s premier prospects.
“It’s awesome just to be involved with these guys,” Wright said. “It’s pretty special. It’ll be a lot of fun to watch them play and play against them.”
Wright made the most of his chance. He entered in the eighth inning, inheriting runners at the corners with none out. He induced a shallow fly out to center and got a double play to escape the inning easily in a 10-6 U.S. win over the World.
Wright knew he wouldn’t enter the game until late. He said the experience reminded him of his freshman year at Vanderbilt, the only other time he’d been a reliever.
“It was kind of fun because I got to relive some moments, memories and situations I encountered before,” he said. “To come in there and accept the challenge; it was even better to get out unscathed. I knew the best thing I could do was attack the zone, make good pitches and let the defense work.”
The 22-year old owns a 4.10 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 94-1/3 innings (18 starts) with Double-A Mississippi.
Despite the honor, Wright felt his first full-season in Double-A featured a sub-optimal start. His pitch count was piling up in fewer innings, and Wright had the realization that rather than try to fundamentally perfect every pitch, he needed a philosophical shift.
Wright decided to relentlessly attack hitters.
“I stopped trying to be so refined with certain pitches and just attack better,” Wright said. “I pitched a lot better and I’ve been more efficient, pitch deeper into ballgames. But at first, early in the year, I wasn’t very efficient. Just giving up too many runs early, too many walks early. Ever since I attacked better, I’ve pitched a lot better, gone deeper in ballgames and given the team a chance to win.”
Those words drew parallels to what Mike Soroka referenced in April. Soroka, the franchise’s top pitching prospect who cracked the bigs at 20 years old, noticed a difference in his development when he grew more aggressive at the recommendation of several Braves staffers.
Soroka’s strikeouts ascended and he wasn’t working himself as hard. Perhaps Wright can find similar fortunes.
That begins with his changeup, a pitch Wright sees as the key to unlocking his potential. He’s at his best when he’s confident in his changeup regardless of the situation.
“Changeup’s been really good for me lately,” he said. “The more I throw it, the better I’ve felt with it. I feel like it’s a real weapon I can throw in any count. That’s something I’ve really wanted with the changeup. That’s one pitch where, I know if I can hone it in, it’d help me out a lot.”
Wright’s only been in the system for a little over a year, so he’s not growing antsy. He just saw his friend Toussaint promoted to Triple-A, and logic says Wright is next in line.
“Maybe, not entirely,” Wright said when asked if Toussaint’s promotion adds motivation. “When he was called up, I was just happy for him because he deserved it. When it’s my time to move up, I’ll move up. But I’m going to just keep trying to get better and whenever they decide to (promote me), that’s when it will be.”
When the Braves selected Wright, it was an exception to their usual trend of taking prep arms with their highest choice. Wright wasn’t supposed to last until No. 5, and rumors swirled even a week before the draft that he could go first.
But the Braves lucked into him. It’s conceivable he could be in the majors as early as next season, when he could further add to the Braves’ crop of young stars.
“They’re playing well,” Wright said of the Braves. “They’re a good team and I think they’re surprising a lot of people. They’re a lot of fun to watch.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.