Ryan Bliss was a well-regarded MLB draft prospect out of the Georgia high school ranks in 2018. However, scouts wondered how the undersized prep shortstop’s offensive skills would translate to the professional level.
It caused major-league teams not to meet Bliss’ signing bonus demands. He wasn’t selected until the Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 30th round. Bliss honored his commitment to Auburn instead of signing a pro contract.
The decision to play collegiately has paid off. Bliss has silenced the questions scouts had about his offensive skills with three productive seasons at Auburn. This year, scouts project the Auburn shortstop as a potential top-two-round pick in July’s draft.
“Going through the process in high school, I didn’t know about the draft,” Bliss said. “It is like a whole different language and world. Knowing that I have been through it and have seen how it is done, I can just not worry about it and play the game. It takes a lot of pressure off knowing that you have gone through the draft process already once before.”
As a freshman in 2019 at Auburn, Bliss hit .281 with 11 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 37 RBIs in 249 at-bats. He started in all of Auburn’s 66 games as a freshman.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Bliss hit .377 with seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and 17 RBIs in 77 at-bats in 18 games.
He worked on his bat path and swing mechanics in the offseason. The offseason work has allowed him to build on last year’s impressive start. Bliss is batting .349 with 12 doubles, 13 homers, and 36 RBIs in 189 at-bats in 45 games this season.
Bliss is a 5-foot-9, 165-pound shortstop who is strong for his size and has a proven ability barreling up pitches from the right side of the plate. This season, Bliss has had a more aggressive approach and incorporated more loft into his swing.
Bliss has above-average speed and a contact-orientated approach that likely will allow him to be a top-of-the-lineup hitter in pro ball.
Although his offensive skills have improved throughout his time at Auburn, Bliss’ defensive skills remain the biggest strength in his game. Bliss has speed, good hands, range and an adequate arm. Scouts believe Bliss will likely play second base in the pro ranks.
“I put my hat on my defense,” Bliss said. “That is one of the things that makes me who I am with making plays and making all the routine plays. I
“My hand-eye-coordination at the plate also is a strength. I can spread the ball all over the park and have now added some power to my game. I am not going to be an easy out and am a great hitter who can hit for average and be a trendsetter at the top of the lineup.”
With one season left in the regular season, Bliss is hopefully to lead Auburn to the SEC Tournament. Auburn has a 22-25 overall record and an 8-19 conference mark.
The Tigers are vying for the 12th and final spot in the conference tournament. They are 13th in the 14-team conference standings and play last-place Missouri this weekend. Auburn likely needs to win at least two of three games to have a chance at qualifying for the postseason.
“For me, I just want to be a great teammate and leader,” Bliss said. “I am swinging the bat well and playing great, but we are struggling as a team right now. My biggest thing is being a great teammate and trying to lead these guys to the (conference) tournament.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.