HUNTERSVILLE, N.C.—Although Ryder Ryan was a two-way player on the summer showcase circuit, he has displayed significantly improved velocity early this spring, touching the mid-90s and generating buzz in the top three to four rounds. After impressing in a start on April 14 in front of more than 40 evaluators, Ryan’s stuff was similar to what it was on the showcase circuit in his April 22 outing.
The North Mecklenburg (Huntersville, N.C.) righthander came out sitting 89-92 mph with his fastball in a 42-pitch first inning. He has a loose arm with an easy, smooth delivery and quiet head, which have allowed some scouts to project above-average command. But that command was not there in this outing with two walks in the first.
From the second inning on, Ryan’s velocity largely sat 86-89 mph, which is largely in line with his showcase circuit velocity. Ryan generates downhill plane from a high three-quarters arm slot and gets at least average fastball life, flashing better with varied arm-side run and tail. He worked primarily to his arm side on the day regardless of hitter handedness. Given his higher arm slot and some heaviness to his foot strike, Ryan didn't miss much horizontally, primarily missing up and occasionally down.
“He was just very flat and he did have the normal zip that he has on it,” his coach, and father, Sean Ryan said. “He was leaving everything high. It is just uncharacteristic of him to leave everything that high.”
The pitching mound received new clay bricks just hours before the game, a complicating factor in his eight-walk performance day (24 percent of hitters faced) in which he threw 56 percent of his pitches for strikes. Ryan, who issued four four-pitch walks and two five-pitch walks, went to the stretch with no one on base in the fifth inning to try to harness his control. Ryan is a quick worker from the first base side of the rubber.
The opposing lineup for Hopewell featured five lefthanded hitters, including four of the first five in the lineup. He deployed his low-80s changeup frequently against the top of the order the first time through the lineup. It was a below-average offering but has shown average potential in previous outings.
Ryan has a curveball and slider, with the curveball showing better. In the first inning, the 75-77 mph curveball flashed average at its best with 11-5 tilt and depth, although it was consistently below-average especially after his arm speed decreased after the first inning. In the later innings his 69-73 mph curveball showed more slider-like and three-quarters tilt from a lower arm slot.
Ryan ramped his fastball velocity back up to 88-90 for his seventh inning and finished with 144 pitches on the day in a 3-2 victory against North Mecklenburg’s rival. For perspective, only two Major League pitchers have thrown more than 144 pitches in a start in the last five seasons, and both were no-hitters when Edwin Jackson threw 149 pitches in 2010 and Tim Lincecum threw 148 last year. Ryan threw 42 pitches in the first, a total that would cause many minor leaguers to be lifted from their outing because multiple organizations have rules that pitchers are pulled after any inning where they throw more than 30 pitches.
He struck out 10 with 13 swinging strikes. The righthanded hitter also clubbed a home run to left center field and scored another run following a double.
The North Carolina commit, who is old for the class and will be 19 next month, has a strong, athletic and well-proportioned build at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and looks significantly trimmer and more toned than last summer.
The catcher/third baseman has spent most of his career training as a position player. His father/coach was also a corner infielder.
“From a pitching standpoint he has really excelled this spring,” Sean Ryan said. “All this pitching stuff has really come down the line in the last month and a half. He has never worked on pitching. Everything you see out there is basically that he has basically been shown certain mechanics from my brother (Jason) who pitched in the big leagues. When this whole pitching thing came, he has been running and doing everything that a pitcher does and he had never done that before. He has lost a little bit of his baby fat. With all the exercises he has trimmed down a little bit.”
Although Ryan showed well early in the season and there are still six weeks left until the draft, multiple evaluators over the last few days said that they believe Ryan will likely reach Chapel Hill.