Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 27

Ryan Wright has been one of the top middle infield prospects in the Cincinnati system for a while but that status is now in jeopardy after a long-awaited AA debut. Unfortunately his slow finish to the season cast some doubts on how legit his fast start was while still at Bakersfield. He’ll be out to put those concerns to rest with a return to Pensacola in 2015.

Not long ago Ryan Wright was arguably the top middle infield prospect in the Cincinnati system. Then he took longer than expected to gain promotion from high-A Bakersfield; in his defense it was a bit surprising to see him back there last year. His 2013 season wasn’t bad, but he didn’t show any improvement at that level over the previous year. His numbers jumped during the third time around, cracking the .300 AVG and scaring the .350 on-base levels, but by that time he was competing against younger players. Still that was enough to earn a long-awaited trip to AA but unfortunately he made a statement that he belonged back at the lower level as he finished around the Mendoza line at Pensacola.

Now instead of gearing up for AAA action the 25 year-old will be trying to earn regular duty with the Blue Wahoos in 2015. Though it’s not unusual to see offensive numbers drop when a prospect leaves the California League, during the second half of last season Wright’s average/on-base fell around .100’ each while his slugging percentage took a nose dive over .200’. Professional sports can be fickle and after the solid start one year ago the prospect will now have to make some major improvement to show that he hasn’t hit a ceiling.

As bad as his AA debut was, he didn’t start off that poorly over the first month. After that he suffered through a horrible August, going 11-88 (.125) with 26 strikeouts over his last 29 games. His AVG/OB differential was around .045’ at both levels which was easier to stomach when he slugged close to .500 at Bakersfield, but a different story when he was below .300 with Pensacola.

The good news is that he should get another shot come opening day and it would not be shocking to see him make good on it. After coming to Cincinnati from the University of Louisville on a fifth round selection in 2011 Wright had an overachiever reputation and considered more “low ceiling/high floor”. The biggest excitement he’s caused was when he homered in four consecutive games after his promotion to high-A in 2012. He has finished a couple of seasons with ten home runs, but unless more power appears in his game he’ll likely need to show more plate discipline to get serious consideration to advance further.

Actually Wright has been through a bit of a roller coaster ride the past couple of years, from a good 2013 at Bakersfield to a very good first half of 2014 after his return to a very bad AA debut following a promotion. Another drawback is that he hasn’t shown any versatility defensively, making every single minor league appearance at second base. He’s flashed good leather there and perhaps there wasn’t as much pressure to see him perform at shortstop when it appeared he would project better offense. Now he’ll have to make a better case than a .200 hitter locked into one position to reverse his downward movement on Cincinnati prospect lists. Earlier Wright got a bonus bit of “perceived value” when there was not much competition at his position in the system. Now after slow advancement there are some younger players that have caught up to him and he needs to come out of the gate hot next year to prevent them from overtaking. Should he manage that against AA pitching it would be enough to get him back on the right track. Twenty-five is not especially old for the Southern League but most teams would prefer their top prospects at the AAA level bucking for a call from the parent team by the time they reach that age. It is unusual to see a prospect go from so good to so bad within a single year. That suggests that he was either playing above his head during the first half or more talented than what he showed in the second one. In 2015 Ryan Wright will be out to prove he is more the latter than the former.

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