Braves option Wright, ready for Folty's return

April 13th, 2019

ATLANTA -- When Braves manager Brian Snitker informed that he was being optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after Friday night’s loss to the Mets, Snitker made sure the highly regarded pitching prospect -- ranked No. 2 in the organization by MLB Pipeline -- knew how much Atlanta values his tremendous potential.

“We love Kyle Wright,” Snitker said. “That stuff is electric. He’s got a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter for a long time. But when you look at it, he’s got a year [of professional baseball] under his belt. This is his second full year, and that’s asking a lot of a young man, even with his maturity and his stuff.”

Courtesy of Monday’s off-day, the Braves will not need to fill the vacated rotation spot until Saturday, when Mike Foltynewicz could be activated from the injured list to start on regular rest.

Less than two years removed from completing his stellar collegiate career at Vanderbilt University, Wright was the most impressive Braves player during Spring Training this year. Blessed with a plus fastball and a pair of impressive breaking balls, the 23-year-old opened eyes throughout March and gained an Opening Day roster spot when Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman both began the season on the injured list.

“I told him if everything had been equal and nobody had gotten hurt, you could have had the greatest spring in the world and you still would have been at Triple-A,” Snitker said. “The fact he got an opportunity to come up here and make these starts is going to do nothing but help him in the long run.”

The desire to start solely right-handers against the Phillies led the Braves to give Wright his first career start in Atlanta’s third game in 2019. Still, the club intended to revert to its initial plan, which was to have Wright, Max Fried, Mike Soroka and possibly other prospects begin this season sharing the rotation’s fifth spot on a rotating basis.

So, the 7.07 ERA, 15.4 percent walk rate and eight percent whiff rate (fifth lowest among pitchers who have thrown at least 200 pitches) Wright produced through his first three starts did not stand as the only reason he was sent down.

But these outings indicated that Wright could benefit from the opportunity to further develop a changeup and gain better command of his fastball, which ended up in one of the three middle portions of the strike zone 19.7 percent of the time as he allowed the Mets eight hits and six runs over 3 2/3 innings on Friday.

“When he goes back down there also, he’s going to have a better feel and focus on what he needs to do,” Snitker said. “He’ll work on repeating his delivery, the location of his fastball and things like that. I think he was just trying to do too much in counts.”

The Braves recalled Touki Toussaint to fill Wright’s roster spot. Toussaint will serve as a long relief option. But at some point this season, he could fit in the mix of prospects used to share the rotation’s fifth spot.