Ryan Ortiz led the team with a .352 batting average and started 55 games at catcher. (Photo by Ethan Erickson)
The season is finished, the draft is done.... let's take a minute to reflect on Ryan Ortiz's time at Oregon State.
Ryan Ortiz entered the program as a highly touted recruit out of St. Augustine High School in San Diego. He lettered three years under head coach Mike Stephenson, and earned league player of the year honors as a senior with a .420 batting average and 8 home runs. As a junior, Ryan batted .440 with four home runs.
Ortiz served as a back-up to Mitch Canham in his freshman year, playing in seven games but only getting four at-bats. Canham, who was a big reason why the Beavers were able to record their second consecutive national champinoship that year, taught Ortiz a lot, as Ryan continued to hone his skills behind the plate.
The offensive part of the game wasn't a problem for Ryan in his sophomore year, as he hit .351 for the season. Ortiz split time with then-senior Erik Ammon behind the plate, and occasionally played first base. For Ortiz, it was his first year catching, and a lot of the Oregon State pitching staff was young as well. At times, the inexperience showed, as Ortiz had 14 passed balls on the season and three errors, and threw out just 14 out of 40 runners. His efforts earned him All-Pac-10 First-Team honors, but Ryan's sophomore year was perhaps marked best by the two-out grand slam he lifted to left center field in a comeback victory over UCLA.
Needing to improve on his defense, Ryan began play in the summer of 2008 in a tryout with the USA Baseball National Team. He batted .278 in the eight-game tryout before heading to the Cape Cod League to join their Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and batted .274 in 35 games.
The improvement Ryan made over the summer behind the played showed early on in the season, as he evolved into a much more reliable and dependable catcher behind the plate. He began the year in a bit of a slump, however, and found himself hitting in the low .200 range after the Pape Grand Slam at PGE Park against Missouri State.
In the end, everything worked out-- he made some tweaks with hitting coach Pat Bailey, and his batting average rose 130 points over the course of 16 games. He finished the year out at .352, a point better than his junior season.
Ryan also became more efficient behind the plate, cutting his the amount of past balls he allowed in half between his sophomore and junior years, as well as throwing out more base stealers. Scouts still think that he needs to develop footwork and fundamentals at catching low pitches-- all of which is fully correctable.
For all the positives Ryan brought to the program, the one thing that a lot of fans were calling for was more vocal leadership from Ryan. Perhaps we were spoiled with three years of Mitch Canham, but Ryan never seemed to fit into the same mold as far as an emotional leader on the team. Sure, there were times when he went on an offensive tear and seemingly carried the team, like the time he drove in the game-winning run in the 11th on a single to center and went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI in the series finale against California. But it seemed like everyone in Beaver Nation was aching for Ryan to pull a Mitch Canham and produce "O-State Ballaz Take 3", it just simply wasn't his thing.
Ortiz, who was projected to go as high as the first or second round, was picked in the sixth round of the draft by the Oakland Athletics. He went 183rd overall, which may seem low, but it seems that Ryan has the potential to work his way quickly through the lower level minor league teams before taking a shot at the majors. According to scouts, he has a good shot-- it will be interesting to see if he joins Jaime Burke on the list of former Beavers to catch in Major League Baseball.
All-in-all, it's been a great three years with Ryan, especially the last two. He seems ready to launch a career that has the potential to see him advance to the major leagues.