Even under his own roof, Braves general manager Frank Wren isn’t immune to criticism for his deal making. When he traded pitcher Javier Vazquez to the Yankees after the 2009 season after Vazquez recorded a 2.87 ERA with 238 strikeouts, his son challenged the wisdom of the move.
“I was like, Dang, Dad, I really liked him,” Kyle Wren said.
One of Wren’s latest decisions has been met with considerably more family approval. On Friday, the Braves drafted Kyle, who just finished his junior season as an outfielder at Georgia Tech, in the eighth round and signed him shortly after. On Monday night, Wren was in Orlando, Fla., readying himself for minicamp and then the start of his career with the Braves’ advanced rookie-league team in Danville, Va.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with a bunch of the guys that my dad trusts at developing players,” Wren said. “The Braves have been so good at developing players for so long that I feel like I’m in a really good spot to grow as a player.”
Coming out of Landmark Christian School and again last year as a draft-eligible sophomore at Tech, Wren told his father he didn’t want the Braves to draft him. Cincinnati took him in the 30th round last year.
It’s not that he didn’t want to be a Brave. Wren said his family “lives, breathes and dies by the Atlanta Braves,” and that he and his twin brother Colby (a team manager at Tech) have avidly watched games on television, sometimes coming back to campus from road trips and catching the 10 p.m. West Coast games.
“People scream nepotism and daddy ball and stuff like that,” Wren said. “It’s not that that would affect me because I’ve been dealing with stuff like that my whole life. I just didn’t want the Braves to draft me.”
His father held the same professional approach. He recused himself from discussions about his son as team scouts put the draft board together. Braves scout Brian Bridges, who has scouted Kyle since he was in high school, said Frank never asked him for information about his son unless Bridges brought him up first.
This season gave Wren more credibility as a draft prospect after he slumped as a sophomore. The left-handed leadoff hitter was named second-team All-ACC after finishing sixth in the league in batting average (.360) and second in triples (six) and stolen bases (28). Moving to left field from center, he also had eight assists and committed one error this season.
Before the draft last week, Wren’s father asked him if he would be comfortable with the Braves taking him.
Said Kyle, “I said, ‘Yeah, I’d be fine with that.’”
Still, he didn’t expect it to happen. A few other teams had indicated they would take him in the fourth, fifth or sixth round if he were available. Growing frustrated (and hungry), Kyle Wren left his apartment to stop watching the draft and get lunch. After sitting down, he got a text from a friend congratulating him and then a phone call from Bridges. Wren stayed to finish.
“That burrito I had tasted a little better after that call,” Wren said.
Bridges calls him a player with three above-average tools (speed, hitting for average, defense) who has made gains in strength and speed. He’ll play center field.
“Take his last name aside and who his dad is and his whole situation, I will tell you this beyond a shadow of a doubt — his tools warrant him to be drafted in the ‘A’ rounds,” said Bridges, meaning the first 10 rounds.
As for Vazquez, his ERA ballooned with the Yankees, justifying the elder Wren’s decision. Starting next week, the younger Wren has a chance to improve his father’s reputation further.