I stood around for a little bit after the game as the players were leaving, and I saw a mother ask Strieby if he would take a picture with her baby. From that point on, I knew that eventually I had to write a story about Ryan Strieby.
At 6'5," Strieby stands taller than much of the competition. In addition to playing baseball, his athleticism shows in the fact that he also played basketball in high school and averaged a double-double in his senior season. Strieby started college at Edmonds Community College, where one season he amassed a ridiculous .450 batting average. From that point, he played his last year of college baseball at the University of Kentucky. The SEC Player of the Year batted for a very impressive .343 average and twenty home runs in only sixty-one games while only striking out thirty-nine times.
At this point Ryan would be drafted for the second time in his career. The Dodgers selected him in the 29th round in 2004 but he decided to keep playing college ball after committing to Kentucky. After playing at Kentucky, Detroit drafted him in the 4th round and sent him to short season Oneonta for sixty-one more games. He would bat .241 there and earn a promotion to Low A West Michigan for his first full season of minor league baseball, despite his numbers being considerably lower than expected by some scouts.
At West Michigan, Ryan batted .253 and was named to the 2007 Midwest League All-Star team. He was also sixth in the league in home runs with sixteen. Upon completing another spring, Strieby was moved up to High-A Lakeland.
Before being moved up to Lakeland, my exposure to Strieby was very limited. I expected him to hit for power as usual, as I had read that he can hit the ball out at just about any part of the park. I also read that he struggled at times against right handed pitchers, which shouldn't be all that much of a concern in my opinion.
As of July 21st, Ryan is batting .253, which closely resembles his average from the past two seasons. He has the same power he has had at lower levels, while hitting 21 home runs (good for the league lead, ahead of former league leader teammate Jeramy Laster), 14 doubles, and five triples (which isn't all that bad for someone with Strieby's speed). He started the season off slow with a .214 batting average in April, but May proved to be much better as he managed a .286 average even with fourteen at bats than the previous month.
As far as defense goes, Strieby has very good hands and plays first base very well for his size. His size does seem to limit his mobility at times, but any ball thrown in the general vicinity of first base is typically caught. Before shortstop and fellow teammate Shawn Roof was promoted to Double-A Erie, I asked him to tell me a little about Strieby. He described him as follows:
I've known Ryan since spring training. I heard a lot about him during his first year at college at the University of Kentucky when he won the SEC Player of the Year. I met him in the batting cages, and was amazed at how fast his swing was. I didn't get a chance to see him play much in spring training because he was on another team, but once the season started I was amazed at how hard he hit the ball and how much pop he has. During batting practice he routinely hits balls up on the patio of the berm and off the batter's eye in center with ease. I realized just how good he was when he hit the grand slam in the 8th inning early in the season to help us win an early ball game.
It's also overlooked at how good he is in the field. He is a great first baseman making diving plays all over the place, and he picks the ball so well out of the dirt. He never misses the ball. Not to mention he is a great target at first base because he's about seven feet tall. I feel there's about a fifteen foot radius to throw to him. It has been a lot of fun watching him play this year, and I'm just glad he's on our team. He's been on a tear so far this season, and I'm anxious to see what else he can do in the future.
The grand slam that Roof mentioned is just one of several highlights for the big man this season. The hit was his first home run of the season and occurred against Clearwater in the Flying Tigers fourth game of the season (April 7th). Ryan went 1-3 with five RBI's. Other highlights include batting 1-for-2 with an RBI in the June 14th Florida State League All Star game and a walk-off walk in the bottom of the tenth in front of a crowd of 4,000+ on June 28th. Then there was the walk-off home run in the ninth mentioned at the start of the article. In that same first week in July, Strieby managed only six hits, but five of them were home runs.
Overall, Strieby has maintained the power that I expected of him, but I also expected his average to go up (his second half average dropped eighteen points from the .251 he registered in the first half of the season). He reminds me a lot of last year's first baseman, Ryan Roberson, and the two have very similar builds. The major difference is that Strieby has better hands and plays better defense as well. I would expect Strieby to finish the season and progress to Double-A Erie as long as he stays healthy, which shouldn't be a problem, as he's remained relatively healthy throughout his career.