Monday, December 15, 2008

Top 15 Hitters: #11 Ryan Royster

Ryan RoysterRyan Royster
6'2'' 205 lbs DOB: 07/25/1986
Outfield
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2008: Vero Beach
Acquired: 2004 Draft, Round 6, 165th overall

Royster was the Rays breakout prospect of 2007, hitting .329, mashing 30 home runs, and driving 98 to capture the organization's triple crown while helping lead Columbus to the SAL title. With 2008 came a promotion to Vero Beach, but also a huge step back in his numbers.

He got off to an awful start, straddling the Mendoza line through most of April and May. He hit better the rest of the season, but his final stat line isn't pretty: .265/.318/.373. That slugging percentage is the lowest of his career, and a massive dropoff from the .601 he posted last year. He struck out 110 times in 426 at bats, and walked only 32 times.

Royster only really has one good tool, but it's hard to ignore his massive power. He combines bat speed with raw strength to generate it, even though he only hit 9 home runs in 2008. His swing can get long at times, leading to the high strikeout numbers and mediocre batting average(outside of 2007, his best BA in a season was .273 back in rookie ball in 2004). He has adequate range for a corner outfield spot, though his fringe arm strength would profile him more as a left fielder.

The elephant in the room with Royster is his plate discipline, which is obviously sub-average, and worse, showed no signs of improving from 2007 to 2008. It's possible Royster can just mash his way through that problem, like he did in 2007, but it's unlikely. For someone whose calling card is his power, 25 extra-base hits in a season isn't going to cut it. He clearly will have to improve his plate approach moving forward.

Royster at least adjusted somewhat to FSL pitching over the course of the season, hitting .307 over the final three months. Royster will be 22 on opening day, and the Rays might decide to test him in AA. Otherwise, he'll return to the FSL with Port Charlotte.

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