Ryan Spikes is going through his first season of professional baseball, but the Charleston RiverDogs second baseman has already had a taste of success in Major League stadiums.
He did a bit of everything as he led the Parkview Panthers of Lilburn, Georgia to the 2021 Peach State Class AAAAAA High School Championship in a two-game sweep over North Paulding at Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park.
He started at shortstop.
And went 4 for 6 at the plate in both games.
In front of a Georgia high school playoff record crowd of 6,124, he took the mound – throwing a 93 mph heat to close both games with a scoreless seventh inning.
“It was pretty cool,” Spikes said. “I had only been there a few times before seeing major league games and it was a bit nerve wracking at first because there were so many fans. But it was a great experience to win the state championship with my boys and see all the hard work pay off.
Almost everything has gone well for Spikes since the “surreal feeling” of first setting up the cleats on the field at Truist Park. Championship Series performances convinced the Tampa Bay Rays not only to pick Spikes in the third round of the 2021 Major League Draft, but to offer a signing bonus of $1,097,500.
That was almost double the value of $581,600 for the 100th overall pick.
Despite a strained quadriceps that kept Spikes out of action for nearly two months in the early spring, he bounced back to hit .283 with five homers, six stolen bases and an .863 OPS in 106 at-bats before July 7 of the RiverDogs. home game against the Augusta GreenJackets.
“A ton of progress”
“The injury gave me a new mindset,” Spikes said. “It allowed me to calm down and understand my plan for the year. Everything has gone pretty well so far. »
Adjusting to a first full season of pro ball includes a move from shortstop to second base. The main shortstop for the RiverDogs is another 19-year-old in the Rays’ 2021 draft, first-round pick Carson Williams.
“Ryan has made a ton of progress already and really learned a lot more about the game and also about his game, strengths and weaknesses,” RiverDogs manager Blake Butera said.
It’s a slightly unusual body type, 5-9 and 185. Range and versatility on defense plus a quick bat comes with the chunky build: Spikes, as well as throwing and shortstop play, have seen some time at third base and in the outfield with a few catching throws while excelling at travel ball and high school.
Matt Olson, Jeff Francoeur
Spikes said some people told him he reminded them of Kirby Puckett, the late Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Twins star who went 5-8, 178.
Spikes prefers comparisons to his favorite active Major League player, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder and 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts, 5-9 and 180.
“I just like the way Mookie Betts plays,” Spikes said. “He plays the tough game, he’s a good guy and he does everything well.”
That’s how it went for Spikes at Parkview High, the alma mater of Braves first baseman Matt Olson and TV analyst and former outfielder Jeff Francoeur. Spikes hit .400 as a senior with 10 home runs, six saves and a .48 ERA.
“Ryan is an easy guy to shoot,” said Butera, a 29-year-old Boston College alum and minor league infielder. “He is calm and polite. He gets along well with all his teammates. Just very consistent. It’s hard to tell after the game if he went 0 for 4 or 4 for 4. It’s the same body language.
It’s easy to see why Tennessee Volunteers head coach Tony Vitello was happy to sign Spikes, and why the Rays were willing to pay so much to pitch him on the road to Tampa Bay.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
Ryan Spikes File
2022 with Charleston RiverDogs: .283 with five home runs, .863 OPS, six stolen bases in 106 at-bats
Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft Pick: Third Round (#100 Overall) in 2021
Position: Second Base
Height, weight: 5-9, 185
High School: Helped lead Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia to the Georgia Class AAAAAA State Championship as an infielder and pitcher
Next RiverDogs games: Home vs. Augusta at Riley Park on July 8, 9 and 10 (riverdogs.com or 843 577-DOGS for tickets)