Tigers Prospect Profile #18: Dusty Ryan

Few Tigers prospects got more hype and attention in 2008 than Dusty Ryan - Ryan, almost a forgotten man, had a breakout season after three straight disappointing years. Ryan has now put himself in prime position to compete for a big league job.

Dusty Ryan
Position: Catcher
Height: 6-5
Weight: 220
Born: 9/2/1984
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
The Tigers selected Ryan in the 48th round of the 2003 draft, choosing to follow him through his sophomore season at Merced College. As a freshman, the 18-year old backstop managed a .256 average and eleven doubles heading into the draft. During his sophomore season, Dusty gave the Tigers every reason to try signing him away from his commitment to Oklahoma State; posting a .398/.477/.617 line with a conference leasing six home runs and 41 RBI. These lofty totals earned him All-Central Valley Conference honors, and pushed the Tigers to sign him right before the June deadline in 2004.

As a rookie with Oneonta in the New York-Penn League, Ryan kept right on hitting and even ranking as high as 20th in TigsTown's 2004 prospect rankings. Dusty's .274/.369/.433 line at the age of nineteen earned him TigsTown's Oneonta Player of the Year award.

Though Ryan got off to a hot start in 2005 at West Michigan, he quickly faded and finished with a very disappointing .183 average and only four home runs in 75 games. Though he saw improvement with a return to the ‘Caps in 2006, there was still disappointment surrounding his lackluster .245/.344/.354 line in 98 games. Dusty missed much of the early part of the 2007 season as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, and returned to pop seven home runs in 46 games while hitting .214 for Lakeland in High-A.

The 2008 season was a breakout of monstrous proportions for Dusty, as he made his Double-A debut with the Erie Seawolves on Opening Day. In 82 games for the Seawolves, Ryan smashed a career high 15 home runs, 17 doubles, and drove in 50 runs. The Tigers promoted him to Triple-A late in August, and he continued to hit the cover off the ball with a .315/.363/.648 line in 20 games with the ‘Hens. His performance the final month of the minor league season not only earned him TigsTown's Toledo Player of the Month award, but also a trip to Detroit for his Major League debut. Ryan carried his 2008 success to Detroit as he hit .318 with two bombs and seven runs driven in in just 15 games.

Scouting Report
Ryan is capable of being an elite level defender behind the plate. He moves well behind the plate, and has excellent footwork on his throws. Dusty's arm is one of the strongest catcher's arms in the system – if not baseball, and he has improved the accuracy on his throws since turning pro. Ryan is a natural leader and as he has begun to become more vocal on the field, his importance to the team's performance has increased steadily. Though he is a solid blocker and receiver, Ryan must work to maintain consistency in these areas. He can stay too high trying to block balls, and can be prone to strings of passed balls. If he can refine his ability to keep pitches in front of him and receive more quietly, he could be a Gold Glove defender.

At the plate, Dusty's largest asset is his above-average raw power. He has the ability to drive balls out to any part of any park, with very strong arms and a sturdy torso and legs. His swing mechanics have become more consistent, though he still has a tendency to extend his arms too much, slowing his bat speed and sapping some of his power. He struggles with pitch recognition, leaving him vulnerable to breaking balls out of his zone, but he has demonstrated an ability to mash any fastball he sees. Ryan is a slightly below average runner with decent instincts on the bases.

The ceiling here could be as high as that of a starting big league catcher, but without progress in his pitch recognition and strikeout rates, he may not get quite to that level. With his power and defensive prowess, there is a strong likelihood that Ryan crafts a lengthy career as a platoon or backup catcher, at a bare minimum.

Performance

Level

Team

AB

AVG

2B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

OBP%

SLG%

AA

Erie

296

.253

17

15

50

95

38

.340

.476

AAA

Toledo

73

.315

7

2

13

27

6

.370

.548

ML

Detroit

19

.318

2

2

7

13

5

.380

.500


Health Record
After making it 100+ games in 2008, there are few lingering concerns over the repairs to his knee. Some scouts still question the health record of big catchers like Dusty, but his defensive abilities and a strong 2008 season behind the plate, will quiet many of those questions.

The Future
With the acquisitions of Gerald Laird and Matt Treanor to handle the catching duties in Detroit, the Tigers can afford to be patient with Ryan in 2009. Barring injury to one of the aforementioned catchers, Dusty will start the season in Triple-A, sharing time with either Dane Sardinha or Max St. Pierre.

After a very poor showing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, questions still surround his ultimate ability to be a full-time Major League catcher. He has to begin making more contact and demonstrate consistency at the plate if his raw power is to be a tool he can utilize at the Major League level. He has enough defense and strength to contribute to big league roster, but enough questions about his hit tool to leave him lingering in Triple-A. Catchers tend to develop a little slow than other prospects, and despite entering his sixth season with the organization, he is still just 24-years old, and has time to further refine his game.

Should there be any injuries in Detroit, Ryan will likely be the first called to help out behind the plate, and he should be back in Detroit by September at the latest; with the potential to have a more permanent role in Detroit as soon as Opening Day 2010.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.


Tigs Town Top Stories