We begin our 2012 Draft coverage with a name with which all Orioles fans will be familiar. Ryan Ripken, son of Cal, is a senior first baseman at Gilman Academy and is elgible for the MLB Rule 4 Draft this June. Ryan is committed to the University of South Carolina, should he choose to forgo pro ball this summer.
Ryan Ripken / 1b / Gilman Academy (Baltimore, Md.)
Age at Draft: 18y11m
College Commit: Univ. of South Carolina
Views: 4 (in person); 2 (video)
Hit: 20 (40/45)
Power: 20 (50/55)
Speed: 25 (30)
Arm: 40 (50)
Defense: 30 (50/55)
*Description of 20/80 scout scale: The Scouting Scale works from 20-80, with 50 being Major League Average. The scale operates loosely on a bell curve, so the further you move from 50 the fewer grades you'll find among ML players (e.g. Justin Verlander's fastball, Mike Trout's speed, Mark Reynold's power, and Albert Pujols' hit tool would all be 80 grade). A 60 grade is sometimes referred to as plus and a 70 grade is sometimes referred to as plus-plus.
Ripken is a long and projectable athlete that should add a significant amount of strength over the next few years. He can struggle with body control, which is expected of a big-bodied high schooler in the midst of a heavy growth period. Despite some clunkiness in actions, he is clearly a solid athlete and shows excellent flexibility. A below average runner, he should pick-up his first step as his coordination and strength round out.
Ripken provides a large target for his infielders, reads throws well, and makes good use of his reach and flexibility. His range is fringy right now, but should improve as he matures and improves his first step. His hands are better than he will sometimes show. He could easily develop into an above-average glove at the three-spot. His arm strength is solid.
Ripken has the offensive aptitude that you would expect of the son of a Hall of Famer. He has a good feel for the strikezone and a more advanced approach than many of his contemporaries. Ripken often does a solid job identifying secondaries and is generally ahead of the curve at picking-up pitcher patterns. His physicality, however, is currently lagging behind his mental approach. While Ripken delivers the barrel fairly well, he lacks the "now" strength to drive the ball. He struggles against better velocity -- particularly up in the zone -- and lacks the bat speed to compensate for late starts when he is looking off-speed. There is some ceiling here, including potential for a solid hit tool and above-average pop, but he is still a ways away from realizing that potential.
Ripken is currently best suited for college ball, where he'll have an opportunity to continue to refine his game while he finishes growing into his frame. Coach Tanner and the USC staff work well with young hitters, and it is easy to picture a scenario where two years under their tutelage (Ripken will be draft eligible again as a sophomore, due to his age) could result in his reemergence as an early-round prospect in 2014. Ripken has the make-up, bloodlines, and smarts to succeed as a pro -- he just needs his body to catch-up with the rest of him. Area scouts will check-in on him throughout the summer to gauge his physical progress, his bat speed and the development of his power. Barring a jump in physicality over the next three months, the new collective bargaining agreement (which limits teams' ability to give mid-six figure bonuses outside of the first few rounds) will likely make Ripken's decision as to whether to enroll at USC an easy one.