Over the next week, I will be unveiling my bold predictions for the Braves one by one. In the past, I’ve done this segment altogether, but I wanted to dive into my reasoning a little more this year, beginning with who I believe will be 2022’s breakout star.
The path to stardom in baseball is rarely linear. Some guys, like Ronald Acuña, never experience a bump in the road from rookie ball to the majors, but for most players, there are a plethora of struggles along the way — take Austin Riley, for example.
The expectations have been high for Wright from the jump. That’s what happens when you are drafted 5th overall and come from the baseball factory that is Vanderbilt, but the eye test also had people excited. From the first time I saw Wright, I believed he would be a staple at the top of the Braves rotation for years to come. There’s a lot to like; his sinker, which is his go-to offering, sits in the mid-90s, and his fastball can reach the upper-90s. For punchouts, Wright often turns to his slider or curveball, but he’s also not afraid to mix in a changeup. That’s a pretty impressive five-pitch mix, but like with many talented young arms, the issues have stemmed from control and confidence. I think those are two areas we will see him take substantial steps forward in this season, and if that happens, he will be one of the four best pitchers on the team.
I’m not sure how Wright could still lack confidence after the way he performed in last year’s postseason. After essentially not playing for the Braves all season, starting just two games at the major-league level, he was thrust into a pivotal role during the World Series, asked to start Game 4. Keep in mind, the last time Wright started a game in the playoffs, he didn’t make it out of the first inning, allowing the Dodgers to torch him for seven earned runs. This time, however, Wright was nearly perfect, surrendering just one run over 4.2 innings. The Braves would eventually go on to win, and the rest is history.
What we witnessed in Game 4 was the best version of Kyle Wright, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen it. When he’s rolling, he has the stuff to make the best offenses in baseball go dormant. A lot of people seem to have written Wright off or no longer believe he can be an extremely valuable piece; I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum. Wright will stick in the rotation for the entire season and start one of the first three games of the postseason.
Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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