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Then & Now: Ryan Ritter, Kentucky


David Seifert
Director of College Scouting


THEN FEBRUARY 19, 2018:
 Six-foot-1, 160-pound, lean, wiry, projectable, right-handed hitting middle infielder. One of the top uncommitted middle infielders in the 2019 class. Highly-athletic defensive actions, quick, fluid footwork, ranges well to both sides. Soft, sure hands, ultra-quick release at times. Loose, athletic arm action, ability to throw from multiple angles, throws carry and topped at 87 mph across the diamond. At the plate, balanced, open relaxed setup, smooth load, short stride and maintains balance through contact. Fluid rhythm, loose, athletic hands, creates bat speed, gap-to-gap approach and 80 mph exit velocity from a tee. 7.08 runner in the 60, laser-timed.

 


NOW MARCH 27, 2022:
Defensively, it’s always a good look at college baseball’s top fielding shortstop. With ultra-smooth actions, soft hands and plus range in all directions Ritter makes all the plays. He also has a rifle for an arm and a quick field to throw transfer. With it comes very good carry. It’s easy to envision him commanding the shortstop position in the Major Leagues for many years.


Offensively, Ritter does not possess a natural stroke, but has learned to make all the parts work together. With that stated, I was hoping for even more improvement since my look in the Cape last summer when he had good rhythm, better balance and a little more bat speed. He’s never had an explosive trigger, but with a near dead start his hands were slower to contact. His swing was also uphill, especially on Saturday with too much weight on his backside. The lack of weight transfer may have been due to a steady diet of breaking pitches he saw on Friday evening. Nine of the 16 pitches he saw in the series opener were breaking balls of some variety. Saturday he saw more fastballs and staying back on the pitch wasn’t the solution. Sunday was his best day at the plate with a hard lineout his first at-bat followed by a bases-clearing, three RBI triple and ending with a hard hit Sac Fly (103 mph EV). Ritter finished the series 2-for-11 with five RBI.

At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and batting and throwing from the right side he reminds of Alika Williams (Arizona State), who was the 37th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Like Ritter, Williams was also known as a defense-first shortstop with soft hands and excellent body control. Ritter has more arm strength of the two and their speed is similar with neither being impact burners, but both having enough to steal double digit bags each year at the pro level. However, Williams controlled the strike zone to a much greater extent than Ritter. A high strikeout rate (23% in 2021, 24.8% so far in 2022) and struggles with the breaking ball hinders Ritter’s draft resume.

This season there are a handful of college shortstops who project more in the batter’s box than Ritter, including Brooks Lee (Cal Poly), Zach Neto (Campbell), Eric Brown (Coastal Carolina), and to some extent Carter Young (Vanderbilt) and Trey Faltine (Texas), but none project better to remain at shortstop at the pro level. Ritter is the top college defensive shortstop in the country. Sorry Longhorn fans, Faltine is very, very good, but he is a sliver close second to Ritter. 

Overall, the 2022 draft looks to be weak on college shortstops and far short of 2019 when five college shortstops were selected in the first round (Stott, Wilson, Shewmake, Jones, Davidson) and four more in the second. When there’s a shortage, history (supply-demand) shows that prospects like Ritter, as long as they are “signable”, will move up draft boards. In our Top 250 preseason rankings we had Ritter ranked as the 36th overall college prospect which equates to mid-second round. Despite the current concerns in the batter’s box, he is still likely to be selected in this range, especially after showing aptitude and improvement every year of his college career and a strong 2021 Cape showing with a .330/.431/.429 slash with 14 walks and 25 strikeouts in 91 at-bats which easily tops Alika Williams’ two year Cape slash of .262/.323/.345 with seven walks and 17 strikeouts in 84 at-bats.

 

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