Back in 2011, the Orioles selected Mike Wright in the third round of the amateur draft. He was a 21-year-old out of East Carolina University. Since then, Wright has made his way through the gambit of the Baltimore farm system, ending 2011 at high-A Delmarva, 2012 at double-A Bowie and 2013 at triple-A Norfolk. In 2014, the big righty spent the entire season as a member of the Tides down in Virginia.
No matter where you look, Wright tends to fall somewhere in the middle of the Orioles top 10 prospects. Baseball America had him ranked eighth entering the 2014 season, but once Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Eduardo Rodriguez are removed he will slot in at fifth. MLB.com currently has him at the seven spot. ESPN's Keith Law puts him at fourth (once again, you have to take out the trio mentioned earlier from his preseason rankings). Baseball Prospectus has him at third.
His projections vary pretty widely, as they do with most young players. Law sees him as a back-end rotation piece. Others, like MLB.com, see him as a useful bullpen arm. His fastball can get up to 96 mph, but as a starter he is more comfortable working in the low-90s. Those who prefer him in the 'pen cite his "average change" that sits in the high-70s and, according to Law, his "fringy curveball". However, Baseball America gives him the distinction of having the best slider in the O's minor league system. The consensus seems to be that Wright's off-speed stuff is nothing spectacular so the Orioles minor leagues must need to work on their sliders.
It seemed like 2014 was destined to be a disappointment for the 6-foot-6 starter. He was good in April, pitching to a 2.78 ERA over four starts, but May, June and July were as ugly as it gets.
In May, he never went longer than 5.2 innings, pitching 28.2 innings over six starts total for the month. Over that time he allowed 36 hits and walked 13 and accumulated a 7.85 ERA.
June wasn't much better; a 7.66 ERA over five starts and 22.1 innings. July was just a measly 5.08 ERA over 33.2 innings. He saved his season with a tremendous final month
In August, he pitched to a 0.76 ERA over five starts and 35.1 innings. It helped him to lower his season ERA from 5.87 before the month to 4.61 when the season ended.
Over those final three starts he pitched 23.2 innings and didn't allow a single earned run. Included in that was an August 21 performance against the Durham Bulls (Tampa affiliate) in which he came within one out of a no-hitter. He did manage to strike out a career high 11 batters and threw a season-high 121 pitches.
He finished the season with a record of 5-11, an ERA of 4.61, a 1.40 WHIP, 103 strike outs and 41 walks over 142.2 innings pitched.
As a whole, the season had to be a disappointment for Wright who was so successful in his first career start in triple-A back in 2013 (6.2 scoreless innings.) But he showed the glimmer in the final month that proves why the Orioles believe he can be a Major League starter.
He seems to be a player that knows how to adapt. He improved his ERA at double-A Bowie by more than a run and a half in his second season there. The same could be true at Norfolk as he started to figure it out late.
He will be 25 by the start of the 2015 season. The Orioles rotation seems to be pretty stacked at this point (whoa, can't believe I'm even saying that) and that is without Ubaldo Jimenez, who will get another chance to crack the rotation next season. Perhaps the bullpen is the way to the big club for Wright.
What do you expect from Mike Wright in 2015? Did he perform better or worse in 2014 than you expected? Let us know in the comments down below.