- Full name Ryan Matthew Church
- Born 10/14/1978 in Santa Barbara, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'2" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Nevada - Reno
- Debut 08/21/2004
- Drafted in the 14th round (426th overall) by the Cleveland Guardians in 2000.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Former Expos general manager Omar Minaya made one of his best trades when he acquired Church and infielder Maicer Izturis from Cleveland for lefthander Scott Stewart. Like Larry Broadway, Church began his college career as a pitcher before hurting his arm. By learning to use the entire field and work counts better, he turned in his best offensive season in 2004. In many ways, Church is similar to Brad Wilkerson. He has a quick, classic swing and makes consistent hard contact. Strong and athletic, he's an average runner with a good arm. He could fill in as a center fielder in the majors but fits better in right. He might not have enough power to hit in the middle of the order in the majors. At 26 he's not young for a prospect, and he didn't exactly seize a big league job with his late-season performance. The Nationals' offseason trade for Jose Guillen decreases Church's chances of winning a starting role. In time, he could develop into a .300 hitter with 20-25 homers a year.
Church has a solid all-around package of tools, but he was stuck behind a group of talented young outfielders in the Indians system. Thus his career received a huge boost when he joined the Expos in the Scott Stewart trade in January. Church began his college career as a pitcher before hurting his arm, and he has persevered and overachieved since entering pro ball as a 14th-round pick. His strong build, quick bat, slight uppercut and ability to make hard contact give him above-average raw power. He projects as a .275 hitter with 25 homers annually in the majors, though he needs more consistency and better plate discipline. He's predominantly a pull hitter and must use the opposite field more often. Though Church is a slighty below-average runner, he's capable of playing all three outfield positions. He's best suited for right field because of his strong arm. He'll probably start 2004 in Triple-A but could push for a promotion in the second half, especially if Juan Rivera should struggle in right field.
Church has quietly plugged along and become a viable prospect. He began his college career as a pitcher before hurting his arm, and he's still developing at the plate. He's a little too pull-conscious now and needs to use the whole field. He does strike out a lot and his plate discipline deteriorated once he reached Double-A. However, Church projects to hit 20-25 home runs, which would be a luxury for a center fielder. Though he's no more than an average runner, Church is athletic enough and gets good enough jumps on balls to play center at Jacobs Field. He easily has the strongest arm of any outfielder in the Indians system. As he has advanced, he has shown a pattern of struggling early at each new level before making adjustments. He'll vie for a spot in the Triple-A outfield this spring, but may have to return to Akron. Either way, he's a candidate for a September callup to Cleveland.
Church began his college career as a pitcher, but hurt his arm at Nevada, turned to the outfield and has become one of Cleveland's better position-player prospects since signing in 2000. He was named MVP of the short-season New York-Penn League in his pro debut and had a strong performance in Class A last year. Church doesn't have an overwhelming tool but he's solid across the board. He has the chance to hit for average and power in the majors. He's an average runner. Defensively, Church gets good jumps on balls and has enough arm for right field. At times his swing tends to get a bit long as he tries to force his power. But he's as good an all-around outfielder as the Indians have in their system. A good spring could position Church to open the season in Double-A.
Church had the best debut of any of Cleveland's 2000 draft picks, leading the New York-Penn League in RBIs and earning MVP honors. He has a lot of upside but may take some time to develop because up until three years ago he was a pitcher. A shoulder injury in college moved him back to the outfield, his main position in high school. Though Church lacks an exceptional tool, he's solid in all phases of the game. He runs fairly well and will take a walk, as evidenced by his .396 on base percentage. The jury is still out on what kind of power Church may eventually show. He's a corner outfielder, so the power better arrive eventually. He'll get the chance to develop it in Class A this season.
Minor League Top Prospects
Most of former GM Omar Minaya's trades didn't work out for the Expos, but he can be proud of the January deal that sent Scott Stewart to Cleveland for Church and shortstop Maicer Izturis. Both Church and Iztruis responded with career years and could be regulars for the Washington D.C.-bound franchise in 2005. Some managers thought Church was the best-looking young hitter in the PCL this year. After previously trying to jerk every pitch he saw out of the park, he finally became more selective and began to use the entire field in 2004. Scouts liked him, too, though they weren't as sure that he had quite enough power to bat in the middle of a big league lineup. Church has average speed and solid arm strength. One scout said he had a better chance to play center field in the majors than Swisher or Reed, but his defensive skills are more suited for right.
If Church hadn't been promoted to Double-A in mid-June, he might have challenged for the CL triple crown. Before he left, he established his ability to hit for both power and average. His plate discipline was solid at Kinston, though he expanded his strike zone too much in Akron. He has average speed and an average to slightly above-average arm. He has played some center field but fits better in right. "He can hit and he gets RBIs," said Kubiak, who has witnessed much of Church's progression through the Indians system. "He's just learning how to hit. He has to work on staying off the high pitch, but as far as learning how to hit offspeed pitches he was much better this year."
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Washington Nationals in 2005
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Washington Nationals in 2005
- Rated Best Batting Prospect in the Pacific Coast League in 2004
- Rated Best Outfield Arm in the South Atlantic League in 2001
- Rated Best Outfield Arm in the Cleveland Guardians in 2001