What to expect from Braves' Toussaint, Wright

September 3rd, 2018

For a while now, we've heard about the Braves' pipeline of young pitching talent. The organization has been stockpiling arms, via the Draft and trade, during its rebuild. And just like that process, the pitching helping out in Atlanta has happened ahead of schedule.

Some of the help has been there for much of the season, with Sean Newcomb (a trade acquisition) playing an important part in the rotation and A.J. Minter (a draftee) settling in as the team's closer. Max Fried (trade) and Mike Soroka (draft) have made contributions, though injuries have gotten in the way of that. Kolby Allard (draft) and Luiz Gohara (trade) have also been called up to help. Most recently, Bryse Wilson (draft) has come up to make a key start, as has Touki Toussaint (trade).

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Toussaint, the club's No. 7 prospect and No. 74 overall on MLB Pipeline's Top 100, is back to make start No. 2 on Monday against the Red Sox. He and Wilson were among a slew of September callups on Saturday that also included 2017 first-round pick Kyle Wright, the team's No. 2 prospect.

Toussaint was tremendous in his big league debut on Aug. 13 against the Marlins, allowing just one run on two hits over six innings to pick up the win. Is it fair to expect the same kind of brilliance? Probably not, especially given that the Red Sox lineup is just a tad more productive than that of the Marlins, but there is no question the right-hander has the stuff to compete against any Major League hitters.

Stuff has never been the issue for the 2014 first-round pick. He's long had an extremely effective 1-2 punch with his plus fastball and curve, but command problems had some wondering if the bullpen might be a better spot for him long-term. That, however, has improved tremendously in his three seasons with the Braves, going from 4.8 BB/9 in 2016 down to 4.0 in 2017. This year in the Minors, he was down to 3.5, all while continuing to miss bats (10.8 K/9). He walked just two in that debut against Miami. More strikes, along with an improved changeup, have made those questions about his role disappear. You don't hear anyone thinking he's a future reliever anymore.

Even the way he handled life back in Triple-A after his debut was mature and professional. Instead of thinking he had "made it," he got back to work and in his three starts with Gwinnett he gave up just one earned run (two total runs) over 19 innings. All three were wins and he allowed just 11 hits and four walks while racking up 24 strikeouts. Whether he starts any more games down the stretch is besides the point. He has cemented himself as a future frontline starter, one who is still just 22. And the good news is that should the Braves need him out of the pen for this playoff run, his stuff will play very, very well in shorter stints.

Wright has never had questions about his ability to start. The No. 5 pick in the 2017 Draft was Vanderbilt's ace and was tabbed as the type of college arm who could move quickly through a system. He's more than lived up to that billing, beginning his first full season in Double-A and reaching Triple-A after 20 starts. He's already proven how durable he is by logging 138 innings in his first full pro season.

That's part of the reason why the Braves called him up to help out of the pen rather than give him more starts. But given the fact he hasn't relieved since his freshman year at Vandy in 2015, he's pretty good at it. Back then, by the way, he had a 1.23 ERA in 29 games, all but three coming in relief, as a teenager in the SEC.

There were no more relief outings until this year's Futures Game and he didn't exactly get to ease in. He entered the game with runners on first and third and no one out, asked to protect a three-run lead. He induced a flyout and an inning-ending double play on five pitches. Want to talk about a pitcher with a slow heartbeat? It's this guy.

And he has the kind of pure stuff that will tick up in shorter appearances. He has four pitches above-average or plus, with a fastball that can touch 98 mph. The Braves gave him two relief outings in Triple-A before his callup and he turned in two scoreless frames, allowing just one hit while striking out two.

Whether or not the Braves use Wright in any high-leverage situations remains to be seen, but he's shown that nothing really fazes him. He'll be a huge part of the Braves rotation starting in 2019, but he could provide a huge lift to the bullpen, possibly along with those other young guns in Toussaint, Wilson and eventually Fried. That kind of depth can help a playoff team catch its breath and ready itself for a long postseason run.