23. Kyle Ryan: 6'5", 180 lbs., LHP
Ryan was drafted by the Tigers in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. He has shown impressive durability and excellent pitchability. Ryan has continued to improve every year, and has the chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter at the big league level. There is no reason to rush, as he does not have to be placed on the 40 man roster quite yet. He will get his first taste of the upper minors this season. It should be a good test for him.
Projected 2014 Team: Double-A Erie
Thanks to Jay Chipman for the video.
Big man can pitch! Ryan came into the Tigers organization as a gangly 6'5" left-hander who threw in the mid 80s and topped at 87 miles per hour. A few years later, he is still all arms and legs, but his fastball sits in the 87-90 mile per hour range with some run and sink, as most two-seamers do. He certainly has control of the fastball, and shows good command as well. In order to get outs at the big league level with below average velocity, it is imperative that Ryan's fastball command is excellent, especially if he is going to pitch at 88 mph most of the time.
In his first four full years as a pro, Ryan has made 88 starts and thrown 491 2/3 innings, which is extremely impressive. He has averaged two walks per nine innings over the duration of his minor league career. Ryan is a zone-pounder. While that has certainly worked in the low minors against inferior hitters, I am really interested to see what happens when he reaches Double-A this season, and potentially Triple-A in 2015. You see, low minors hitters -- who are typically not very advanced -- have trouble with lefty strike throwers; especially ones with big league curveballs, like Kyle possesses. The real test typically comes in Double-A, where the hitters are more advanced, and won't swing at pitcher's pitches as frequently.
As mentioned, Ryan has a solid average big league curveball at this time -- which he could easily refine into a plus pitch -- and a 'show me' change. His delivery is clean and repeatable, and he has no mechanical red flags to speak of. He doesn't have too much deception other than the long limbs, which is not a big concern. The advent of the change should help him against more advanced hitters, and a three-pitch mix with his control/command profile -- while not 'sexy' per se -- could work against major league hitters. Just a side note here: when you are evaluating talent, it's important to judge 'ceiling.' Ryan does not have a big ceiling, and that's fine. I like ceiling. I also like pitchers who get guys out. Kyle Ryan gets guys out, plain and simple. He knows how to pitch and stays healthy. If he can slightly refine his sequencing, along with his three pitch mix, he could be a lefty that throws in the majors for a few years. It's not like his profile is uncommon.
Even though it might take three more seasons for him to toil around in Double-A or Triple-A, don't give up on a lanky lefty like this. At the very least, he is going to get guys out in the upper minors for a long time. He probably doesn't have the stuff for the bullpen, so he will have to start. The Tigers seem like they have something here with this former 12th rounder. Even if he never reaches the majors, a pick that low contributing to the organization is a success. Jeff Jones may get his hands on him this spring, and with some command refinement, Ryan could be a big league contributor.