For the third consecutive year, the Atlanta Braves of Hart/Coppolella/Bridges have drafted a pitcher No. 1. For the first time, that pitcher isn’t a teenager. He’s Kyle Wright, a right-hander from Vanderbilt. He went fifth overall. The Braves — according to Jim Bowden of MLB Radio — had him No. 2 (behind Brendan McKay, the two-way Louisville product who went fourth to Tampa Bay) on their board.
If that was indeed the case, the 1-0 victory over Detroit and Justin Verlander in Game No. 162 of last season made no difference. Had the Braves lost the Turner Field finale, they’d have picked second overall. Drafts are funny things, baseball drafts especially.
There’s a real chance that Wright, who’s 21, will reach the majors sooner than Kolby Allard, the Braves’ first pick in 2015, and Ian Anderson, their No. 1 draftee of last year. They were high-school arms. Neither has done a single thing to disappoint, but high-school arms take time. Wright is older and therefore a more finished product.
Wright hails from Vanderbilt, the same school that produced Mike Minor, whom the Braves took seventh overall in 2009. He was in the majors by August 2010, and there were moments when he seemed the real deal. He beat Zack Greinke in Game 2 of the 2013 NLDS. He had a 3.21 ERA and a 3.1 WAR value that year. Then he got hurt. He’s now a reliever with Kansas City, landing spot for all ex-Braves.
There are two schools of thought on college pitchers: They’ve grown into their bodies and know how to pitch, making them easier to project, but they’ve also worked more high-stress innings. The Braves’ first two picks in 2015 were high-school pitchers. Their first three last year were, too. Not this time.
I’m not sure this means the Braves have reversed course. I’d suggest all it means is that they really like Wright, whom MLB.com had as the third-best player available and Baseball America had as second-best, and were thrilled he was around at No. 5.
This part hasn’t changed: Wright is a pitcher, another in a line now stretching from here to Hahira. Asked last year his plan for future drafts, scouting director Brian Bridges said: “Just keep banging those arms.” That sound you heard Monday night was yet another bang.