STEVEN WRIGHT, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: August 30, 1984
Drafted: 2nd Round, 56th Overall, 2006 (Indians)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
College: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Agent: Ballengee Group
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Cleveland drafted Wright in the second round as a pitcher with a fringy fastball but an excellent slider. He didn’t have a lot of success in the minors and, in 2011, transitioned to throwing a knuckleball full-time. It took him a few years to master it, but he spent at least some time in the majors from 2013-19, with a big season in 2016. His time in the majors, though, was repeatedly interrupted by injuries, the worst being a knee injury, and also suspensions, both for PEDs and domestic violence. After the 2019 season, he had Tommy John surgery and missed 2020.
Like most knuckleballers, Wright doesn’t miss a lot of bats but, at his best, limits hard contact. This is reflected in the advanced stats; he’s generally had low BABIPs, low exit velocities and xFIPs that were higher than his ERAs. (Basically, balls-in-play analysis doesn’t work well with knuckleballs.) Wright throws the knuckleball in the low- to mid-70s and occasionally throws a low-80s fastball. He was a starter in the majors until the injuries piled up. The Pirates signed Wright to a minor league contract for 2021.
Wright wasn’t able to play the year he signed due to mononucleosis. The Indians sent him the next year to low A for the first half of the season, where he probably pitched better than his ERA. He was hurt a little by home runs, as he allowed nine. After a mid-season promotion to high A, he got hit hard.
Back at high A, Wright had a good first half, earning a promotion to AA. He wasn’t as effective there, with home runs (14) being a significant problem.
The Indians moved Wright mainly to the bullpen. He made five starts among 36 appearances in AA. He was much more effective, among other things allowing just one home run all year.
Wright opened the season in AAA, but after he struggled through nine relief appearances, Cleveland sent him back to AA. He continued pitching in relief, apart from two starts, and wasn’t nearly as effective as the previous season.
Wright made the transition to knuckleballer and pitched at every full season level, mostly as a starter. He wasn’t effective at any level, with control being a problem. The ERA in low A is misleading as nearly half the runs he allowed were unearned.
The Indians sent Wright to AA and he made considerable progress, still as a starter. His walk rate was still high, but he was hard enough to make solid contact against that his WHIP was good. At the trade deadline, the Indians sent him to Boston, which added him to the 40-man roster after the season.
Wright did reasonably well in 24 AAA starts, but walks remained a problem. The Red Sox called him up three times and he got into four games. Two went well and two didn’t.
After missing the first two months due to surgery for a sports hernia, Wright went to AAA and pitched well in 15 starts. In particular, he cut the walks in half by slowing the knuckler down. The Red Sox called him up for half a dozen late-season appearances, all but one in relief, and he pitched well in the majors, too. After the season, Baseball America ranked him 22nd in the Sox’ system.
Wright was up and down several times between AAA and the majors. He didn’t pitch as well in AAA as the previous year, but was reasonably effective in the majors apart from gopher ball problems, as he allowed 12. He pitched strictly as a starter in AAA, and made nine starts and seven relief appearances with the Red Sox. Wright’s last five appearances were starts and he appeared to have won a spot in the rotation, but he missed the last month and a half of the season due to a concussion.
Wright had a big season, making 24 starts for the Sox and being named to the All-Star team. He cut his home rate in half and held opponents to a .653 OPS. He missed the last month of the season with bursitis in his shoulder.
Wright got off to a very bad start and then had left knee surgery at the beginning of May. He missed the rest of the season.
Still recovering from the knee surgery, Wright missed April and then served a 15-game suspension for a domestic violence incident. When he returned to Boston, he pitched in relief at first, then made four starts. In June, though, he went out for over two months with inflammation in his knee. After he returned he pitched in relief. When Wright was able to take the mound for Boston, he was effective. He allowed just one earned run in ten September relief appearances.
Wright had pretty much a lost season. He missed the first half due to an 80-game suspension for PEDs. In mid-July, he went out for season with toe injury. Boston released him after the season and he had Tommy John surgery in October.
Wright didn’t sign with any team and missed the season following the surgery.
It’s not clear how the Pirates see Wright. For one thing, it’s unknown where he is in his recovery from Tommy John. He almost certainly needs some time in AAA. It’s conceivable that, long-term, the team sees him as possible starting depth.
|2021: Minor league salary
|Signing Bonus: $630,000
MiLB Debut: 2007
MLB Debut: 4/23/2013
MiLB FA Eligible: 2021
MLB FA Eligible: 2021
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2012 (since removed)
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2013, 2014, 2015)
MLB Service Time: 5.012
|June 4, 2003: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 26th round, 761st overall pick.
June 6, 2006: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 2nd round, 56th overall pick; signed on July 3.
July 31, 2012: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Boston Red Sox for Lars Anderson.
November 20, 2012: Contract purchased by the Boston Red Sox.
October 18, 2019: Released by the Boston Red Sox.
March 21, 2021: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.