Bad Times Yield Positive Change For D-backs’ Ryan Bliss

Ryan Bliss wouldn’t wish his struggles from last season on anyone.

But looking back, the 23-year-old second baseman is glad he went through them. If he hadn’t, he might not be having the sort of bounce-back season with Double-A Amarillo he is enjoying this year.

“It’s a blessing in disguise,” Bliss said. “I didn’t have the year I wanted to, but I was able to see what was wrong—and what could go wrong when my swing wasn’t where I needed it to be and able to make adjustments.

“Sometimes you’ve got to take the bad times and try to find some good out of it.”

Bliss, a 2021 second-round pick out of Auburn, hit just .214/.298/.343 in High-A Hillsboro last year. Through 36 games for Amarillo this season, he hit .380/.406/.639.

Though he is in a far friendlier hitting environment this season, his quality of contact lends credence to his success—about 40% of his batted balls are at 95 mph or harder—as does the fact that he made adjustments to keep his swing from being too steep.

Bliss credited the work he put in with Amarillo hitting coach Terrmel Sledge.

“Last year, I was uphill the whole time,” Bliss said. “My shoulder tilt was uphill, which caused me to spin off balls or be under everything. This year, working with a bunch of guys—my man Sledge, he’s been helping me get my tilt down and my foot down early, which causes me to be downhill and drive balls at more of a line-drive angle.”

Bliss thought there were times last season he was trying to swing too hard in an effort to hit everything out of the park. This year, he said he is focused on driving balls on a line over the second baseman’s head, an approach that ends up leading to pull-side power on certain pitches.

Bliss had seven home runs, leaving him three shy of his total from last year in about one-third as many plate appearances.

“If he sneaks one in or leaves one over the plate, I can get the barrel on it or backspin it out,” he said. “That’s here the home runs have come.”

Bliss figures that if he had had a decent season last year, he might not have ended up making adjustments to his swing. He also wouldn’t have learned as much about himself, including how to deal mentally with slumps.

“I was able to learn so much about myself and about the game and gain a different perspective than I had before,” Bliss said. “I think it’s only going to help me.”

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