Vanderbilt baseball pitcher Kyle Wright was the first SEC player off the board in the MLB Draft on Monday night.
The Commodores ace was picked No. 5 overall in the first round by the Atlanta Braves.
The high draft selection came as a little surprise, as the righty from New Market, Ala., had been projected by a number of news outlets to go as high as No. 1 overall to the Twins. The Twins opted for prep star Royce Lewis with the No. 1 pick, leading to Wright falling right into Atlanta’s lap as the first college pitcher off the board.
“It was a dream come true after growing up a Braves fan,” Wright said on MLB Network. “Me and my brothers grew up watching the Braves. Having my teammates here (at Vanderbilt) bombard me was something really special.”
Wright was expected to be a high draft pick starting the season, but had a slow start as a junior at Vanderbilt. He pieced everything together later in the season, pitching as he was expected to all along. Wright finished the season with a 5-6 record with a 3.40 ERA. He struck out 121 batters in 103.1 innings, while walking only 31.
“It was a small little mechanical change,” Wright said on MLB Network.” I was turning my hips too fast and leaving the ball exposed a little bit too early. I needed to slow myself down and just pitch.”
But while the numbers are impressive, it’s the pitches at Wright’s disposal that made him such a highly coveted prospect.
“He has now stuff in his mid-90 fastballs and knuckle-buckling curveball, and he has a big-league body at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds,” wrote CBSSports’ Mike Axisa. “Wright has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but is also very likely to carve out a big league career in some capacity (mid-rotation starter, high-leverage reliever, etc.), as long as he stays healthy.”
As a reliever in 2015, Wright was excellent, posting a 1.23 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 59 innings.
Wright and the Commodores saw their season come to an end at the hands of the No. 1 overall season Oregon State in the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament.