In the last few drafts, it is widely known that the Braves have shown a propensity for drafting pitching. A lot of pitching. Just with their early round picks, the Braves have drafted arms such as Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Wright. Those arms are highly thought of as the should be.
However, one aspect of the Braves draft strategy and prowess during The Great Rebuild has been their ability to also find value and talent in the rounds beyond the first couple. Even though he was recently lost to a frankly heartbreaking Tommy John surgery, Patrick Weigel went from an interesting arm drafted in the 7th round in 2015 to one of the team’s better pitching prospects who was on the cusp of a major league call-up.
Another arm who could follow that pattern and should be considered one of the Braves’ better pitching prospects is their 4th round pick from the 2016 draft, Bryse Wilson. While many in the prospect projection industry (sadly myself included) thought that Bryse was destined to be a reliever, not only has Wilson defied those expectations...but he is now thriving in his first season of full season ball.
Wilson is listed at 6’1 and 225 pounds and the eye test seems to confirm that. In talking to one person familiar with the team, they used a euphemism that isn’t suitable for all audiences involving him being built like a certain type of house made of bricks. That said, he has loose athleticism on the mound and has thus far proven to be very durable and holds his velocity well into his starts.
Bryse pitches off his fastball that generally lives in the 92-95 MPH range that he commands in the zone very well. He also has a good breaking ball that has some slurvy action at times and at others it is a true slider. However, being slurvy is hardly a bad thing, In talking to Bryse (and others for that matter in regards to the term “slurvy”), getting multiple planes of movement has been a positive for him and it is certainly hard to argue with the results.
The “knock” on the young right-hander coming out of high school was that he did not seem to have a third pitch. He did not throw a changeup to speak of in the prep ranks and between that and some mechanical issues, experts seemed keen to say that he was a future reliever. However, Bryse is quick to note that there were several area scouts that scouted him before the draft that thought he could start including the Braves. He was also quick to note that while the naysayers regarding his ability to be a start certainly motivates him to do well, he doesn’t really worry about it going forward. Despite being a young age, he is mature enough to admit that what matters is his performance on the field and if that means that down the line the organization wants to use him as a reliever, he will do whatever it takes to contribute and put wins up for his team.
As for his changeup, it is certainly developing but he is throwing it more and more (around 10 times a game at this point in time) which has been particularly helpful against lefties in keeping them honest and given that he has held them to a .219 average this season with a sub-1 WHIP, so far so good. Right now it grades as average to above average at times, but if he can continue to make strides in consistently keeping his velocity down with it then there is room for growth there.
As for his mechanics, he has made a ton of progress. So much progress, in fact, that former doubters have taken notice including Keith Law who now think he can start due to the changes. He maintains a consistent arm slot with all of his pitches (beforehand, his arm slot would drop a bit when he was throwing his two-seam fastball) and he has eliminated some moving parts in his delivery as he was getting set. Instead of lifting and dropping and lifting his hands before he delivered his pitches, it is now much cleaner.
More than anything, Bryse’s character and personality is indicative of the types of players the Braves are targeting. When he talks about pitching, he knows what his game plan is going to be, how to adapt to the circumstances of the game, and how to pitch when he doesn’t have his best stuff. While flashy strikeout totals in games are nice, Bryse is the first to admit that sometimes he will be a bit off but he will not hesitate to try to change speeds and/or try and get groundball outs.
The results this year have been outstanding thus far. In addition to making the South Atlantic League All-Star team as a 19 year old, Wilson has posted a 2.65 ERA for Rome in 2017 with 71 strikeouts and 20 walks in 74.2 innings this year. While guys with more prominent draft positions or pedigrees may be getting more attention from followers of the Braves system, Bryse Wilson is quickly become a guy that we all may need to pay attention to more. Expect him to feature pretty prominently on the Talking Chop Top 30 midseason prospect list which will come out at the All-Star break.
**Side Note: This was originally going to be an interview with Bryse who was great and also very generous with his time. Unfortunately, the audio file from said interview was corrupted and I was unable to transcribe it. Look for me to follow up with him later in the year. To Bryse, I am sorry that technology hates me.