Braves tab Vanderbilt star RHP Kyle Wright with No. 5 overall pick
ATLANTA — For the third consecutive year, Braves scouting director Brian Bridges emerged from Atlanta's draft room prepared to gush over an elite pitching prospect taken with the franchise's top pick.
Atlanta selected Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, one of the draft's premier names, with the fifth overall selection on Monday night, adding to the organization's MLB-best stockpile of arms in the farm system.
"He's a horse, about 215 pounds. Features four pitches: plus fastball, plus curveball, plus slider, has feel for a changeup plus good command," said Bridges, who mentioned the organization originally scouted Wright as a high-schooler out of Huntsville, Ala. " ... It's farfetched when you get the guy on the board who shouldn't be on the board. He's advanced for his age.
"He brings everything we'd want to see."
The 6-foot-4 collegiate standout boasts a fastball that sits in the 93-95 mile-per-hour range that tops out at 97. His secondary pitches include a curveball, slider and changeup — potentially giving him a complete arsenal to work with at the major-league level in the future.
Wright wrapped up his junior campaign in the Southeastern Conference with 121 strikeouts and a 3.40 ERA in 103 1/3 innings pitched. After not being drafted out of high school due to his strong commitment to Vanderbilt, he improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio in each of his three seasons on campus in Nashville, finishing his career striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings.
“Before the draft really got going I kind of had a sense of who was called where. I guess it was relatively later in terms of when the draft started. I guess maybe an hour before I had a decent idea that’s where I could be," Wright said. "Fortunately, that’s where I made it.”
The selection is a slight departure from the blueprint set in the first two drafts under the guidance of John Coppolella and John Hart — a tunnel-vision focus on prep arms yielding the likes of Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller. Now, Atlanta can add a high-ceiling/high-floor arm to its system on a very similar timeline to its previous top picks.
"We really feel real happy in that room right now (with) where we are, given the landscape, the chance to go after a college top-of-the-rotation type stuff," Bridges said.
Wright is the latest in a long line of top draft picks out of Tim Corbin's Vanderbilt program — the most notable in recent years being 2015 No. 1 overall pick and current Braves starting shortstop Dansby Swanson. He’s the ninth Commodores player to be drafted in the first round dating back to Mike Minor’s selection by Atlanta in 2009, a list featuring big-leaguers Swanson, Sonny Gray and Carson Fulmer. That built-in support system helped Wright handle the weight of expectations after entering his junior year as a bona fide 1-1 option.
"Seeing how those guys handled their draft years — Dansby, Fulmer, guys last year (Jordan) Sheffield, (Ben) Bowden, (Bryan) Reynolds — and what they did to be prepared for this moment is something that I really looked at," Wright said. "You know, really just kind of the main thing they did was (invest) themselves into the team and be more involved with the team. And that kind of took their mind off everything else and allowed them to just play.”
This is the first college player Atlanta has selected with its first pick since taking Jason Hursh out of Oklahoma State in 2014. Needless to say, Wright, who ranked first or second on nearly every draft board entering the night, offers much more upside at fifth overall.
His availability was made possible by an early shakeup at the top of the first round with high-school shortstop/outfielder Royce Lewis going No. 1 to the Twins followed by Hunter Greene (Reds), MacKenzie Gore (Padres) and Brendan McKay (Rays).
Bridges said Wright, who was the first college arm off the board, was the top name remaining on the team's board.
The projected slot bonus for the No. 5 pick is $5.7 million. The Braves entered the draft with the ninth-highest bonus pool at $9,881,200.