Position: First Baseman
Strieby joins the Tigers as a 4th round selection out of the University of Kentucky. The Washington native was named his high schools Athlete of the Year in both 2002 and 2003, on his way to a two-year stint at Edmonds Community College. As a freshman at Edmonds, Ryan was named to the NWAACC All-Conference Team, and was drafted by the Dodgers in the 29th round as a DFE candidate. Strieby exploded in his second season, batting .450 with 21 homeruns, 5 triples, and 7 homeruns in 43 games. Yet again, he was named to the to the All-Conference 1st team, and rather than sign with the Dodgers, Ryan chose to honor his commitment to Kentucky.
In his lone season with the Wildcats, Ryan was named SEC Player of the Year, Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-American 1st Team, and the Collegiate Baseball Foundation All-American Team. Strieby posted a .343/.473/.704 line with 22 doubles and 20 homeruns, while also setting a single-season school record for RBIs with 77. His professional debut came with the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League. However, Ryan struggled to find the form that made him such a lofty draft choice, and finished the summer with a disappointing .241/.317/.335 line. Strieby's best month came in July when he started to find his stroke, notching a nifty .309/.375/.404 spot.
Despite a disappointing debut, Strieby was promoted to West Michigan for his full-season debut as a pro. Facing more a tougher hitters environment, he displayed some of the power potential that made him a nice prospect coming out of Kentucky, notching 16 home runs and 76 RBI in 123 games.
The 2008 season started similarly for Ryan, as he was posting solid numbers but nothing spectacular. Then came the final two months of the season before going down with an injury, where Strieby destroyed Florida State league pitching to the tune of a .325/.366/.796 line with seven doubles, five triples, and nineteen home runs in just 39 games. That season-ending hot streak was enough to earn him the TigsTown Lakeland Player of the Month award in July, as well as TigsTown's Organizational Player of the Year honor while setting the Lakeland single-season home run record with 29.
Ryan has serious MLB power in his bat. He can drive the ball out of any park on the planet, to any part of the field. His pull power is out of this world, and he has the ability to hit majestic home runs that are no-doubters the second he makes contact.
Unlike his power, scouts question the ultimate ceiling of his hit tool, and project him to be more of a .250-.260 hitter at the MLB level. Strieby has some holes on the inner half, and is somewhat prone to chasing breaking balls out of the zone. As he matures as a hitter, he should be able to maintain some of what he displayed during the final two months of the 2008 campaign, where he commanded the strike zone well and punished mistakes. Some scouts believe he's destined to be a mistake hitter that will struggle to continue slugging at this rate at higher levels.
Defensively, Streiby has below average speed and range around the bag at first, but he does display solid hands and a good understanding of his responsibilities. He has made strides to become an average glove man, and he flashes a strong arm on the infield.
Streiby's ultimate ceiling will hinge on his ability to handle more advanced pitching that may be able to exploit his propensity for chasing pitches. There is no doubting that he has the power to be a viable Major League slugger, but the rest of his offensive game will have to step forward to keep him from stagnating as a 4-A slugger.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A+
Strieby was shut down in mid-August after undergoing a minor surgical procedure on his left wrist. The procedure corrected a small break in one of the bones in his wrist, and was not expected to be a problem heading into the 2009 season. Wrist injuries can be serious trouble for power hitters, and Strieby will warrant very close attention in spring training and throughout the opening weeks of the season.
Unless there are lingering concerns over the health of his left wrist, Streiby is a veritable lock to star the season at Double-A Erie. After his power display in the Florida State League in 2008, a more hitter friendly home environment could be a scary thing for Eastern League pitchers. Overall, the league hitting environment of the league will still be difficult, but his power is real, and he should still slug in the EL.
With Miguel Cabrera entrenched at first base in Detroit for the long term, Streiby will have to continue to slug to prove he could be worthy of a slot on the Major League roster as a second first baseman and designated hitter. He will need to prove he is more than a mistake hitter, and he should have the opportunity to do that in his first taste of advanced pitching in 2009. Watch Streiby's strikeout and walk rates closely in 2009 for an indication of how he is handling the challenges of Double-A.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.