Jan. 27, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
– Kyle Wren is on the fast track to the major leagues.
That has more to do with the level at which the speedy outfielder plays the game than that his father, Frank, is general manager of the Atlanta Braves.
Anyone suggesting the latter has never seen the former.
In three years as starting centerfielder and leadoff man for the Yellow Jackets, Kyle was a two-time, first-team All-ACC performer, including winning ACC Freshman of the Year and earning freshman All-America honors. He finished his Yellow Jackets’ career with a .319 batting average, with 254 hits, 32 of them doubles, 19 more of them triples (second-most in school history), scoring 163 runs, an on-base percentage of .394 and 60 stolen bases in 86 attempts (69.7 percent efficiency).
He saved his best for last, hitting a career-best .360 (.400 in ACC play), with a .467 slugging average and .423 on-base percentage, recording 98 hits, 11 doubles, six triples, 127 total bases, and 28 stolen bases, all career-highs.
He was as dependable in the outfield, where he fielded .982, committing only eight errors in 428 chances, while recording 12 outfield assists. As a junior, he fielded at a near-flawless .993 clip (1 error in 139 chances), while racking up eight outfield assists and being a part of three double plays.
Wren, who passed on the professional baseball after being selected on the 30th round by Cincinnati in 2012, jumped at the opportunity to sign with the Braves, his favorite team growing up, in 2013, when selected on the eighth round (No. 253 overall). He was one of seven Yellow Jackets selected in Major League Baseball’s 2013 June Draft. He showed he was ready for the pro ball, as he tore up the Appalachian League and South Atlantic League, hitting a combined .391 (.409 in five games with Rookie league Danville, then .328 in class A Rome, with 73 hits, including 14 doubles and five triples, with 42 runs scored and 35 stolen bases in 42 attempts (83.3 percent efficiency). Defensively, he was as sure-handed as with the Jackets, fielding .991, successfully fielding 116 of 117 chances with one outfield assist.
Last week, Wren was one of 28 participants in the Braves Rookie Development Week, where he received instruction from Braves major and minor league coaches and got to travel on the Braves Caravan to meet the fans. On Saturday night, he was honored by the Braves 400 Club, earning a share of its annual Jason Varitek Award, given to the Outstanding Scholar-Athlete in Georgia, an award he shared with former-teammate Zane Evans.
Wren took a few minutes on Saturday night at the Braves 400 Club’s Eddie Glennon Gameboree to talk to The Good Word about getting his first taste of the majors, his digesting the major league lifestyle last week and his eating in bulk to bulk up for the 2014 season.
The Good Word: You look like you’ve filled out since your days at Georgia Tech. What kind of conditioning have you been doing during the off-season?
Kyle Wren: I’m just trying to do the same thing I did after my sophomore year, where I was eating 6,000 calories a day and trying to gain weight. I’ve been doing that this off-season. I’m not trying to gain as much weight as I did that summer but I’m just trying to get stronger and a little bigger and keep my speed so I can be stronger in the box with a little more bat speed and still keep the same speed game that I`ve had in the past.
The Good Word: What do you weigh now and where would you like to be, ideally?
Wren: Right now I’m 175. I’d like to be anywhere from 175 to 177. I might try to get up to around 180.
The Good Word: How hard is it to keep weight on during the season?
Wren: It’s hard and it’s even harder for me because I have a really fast metabolism and so I lose weight pretty easy if I’m not eating a lot. So I just have to make sure during the season I sleep enough and I get enough food.
The Good Word: How was Braves Rookie Development Week?
Wren: It was great to learn from guys on the big league staff and the new hitting coordinator. It’s an awesome experience just because you’re in the big league clubhouse, where all the Atlanta Braves you’ve been growing up watching on TV are playing. It was me and 27 other guys, and we got to experience the big league lifestyle for like four or five days. I just took away from it to keep working hard and use that four days as kind of the step-off point to where I want to be in the next couple of years.
The Good Word: How good was it for your confidence to do as well as you did in your first taste of pro ball last year?
Wren: It was great. I got lucky. Sometimes even when you’re feeling good, if you hit 10 line drives to the fielders it’s 0-for-10, so I had a great start. I tried to stay confident and have that same approach that I did at Tech, where I wasn’t pressing to impress anybody or do anything extraordinary. I just wanted to have consistent at-bats and show off my speed a little bit. So I’m going to take that same approach this season.
The Good Word: As good as you’ve been offensively, seemingly no one talks about your defense?
Wren: Offensive numbers are a lot easier to look at and be like, `Oh, well, he’s good.’ If you’re not watching games or not checking box scores, it’s hard to know someone is a great defender unless you’ve watched a player play. I take great pride in my defense and try to be the best centerfielder I can be tracking down balls and throwing people out. Honestly, I take as much pride in that as any part of my game.
The Good Word: What level do you think you’ll start at this season?
Wren: I think Lynchburg (The Hillcats are the Braves’ High-A affiliate). That’s up to my dad and some other guys. Hopefully I’ll know midway through spring training.
The Good Word: How close do you keep in touch with your other Tech teammates that have been drafted?
Wren: Oh, we’re really close. I go and hit with Zane [Evans] and Daniel Palka and Sam Dove almost every day at Tech. We’re all back in the same area working out together and taking BP together and throwing together. It was a really close recruiting class. Me, Dan, Zane and Sam Dove have been great friends for three years, so we’ve all been working together. Brandon Thomas has been there, too. Really everybody from last year that got drafted, we’ve all been working out together again this year.
The Good Word: How great has it been for the current group of Yellow Jackets to see you guys around?
Wren: Coach Hall really favors that. That the guys that make it to the next level come back and not only work out in front of the new freshmen and the new players but also talk to them, share some things that we’ve learned over the course of our college careers and try to impress upon them the things that we learned that helped us along the way.
The Good Word: How nice was it for you to win the Jason Varitek Award?
Wren: It’s huge. You GO to Georgia Tech because he’s one of those legendary players that went there and had a great major league career. It was awesome because Zane and I co-won the award. He’s a guy I played with for three years and is a great friend of mine. It’s an extreme honor. Any time you get an award named for a player like Jason Varitek you can’t be more grateful.
The Good Word: You wouldn’t want anyone from Georgia winning the award.
Wren: Exactly. Kyle Farmer won it last year and even though Kyle Farmer is a great guy UGA doesn’t need to be winning the Jason Varitek Award (laughs).
Get The Good Word in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.