Ryan Cermak focused on attacking off-speed pitches last summer while playing in the California Collegiate League. He knew pitchers would attack him with off-speed pitches due to his struggles to square up those pitches throughout his sophomore season at Illinois State in 2021.
Cermak excelled in the California Collegiate League. His success and offensive mindset have carried over into this spring season at Illinois State. Cermak has displayed a well-rounded toolset while producing at a high level throughout his junior season.
After garnering just two Division I college baseball out of the Illinois high school ranks, Cermak has made notable strides throughout his collegiate career. Now, Cermak is garnering interest in preparation for July’s MLB draft. Scouts project Cermak as a potential top-five-round pick in this year’s draft.
“Taking a step back, I had no idea what I was talking about as a freshman when I thought I would get drafted,” Cermak said. “It’s a lot harder than it seemed. But all the hard work has paid off.”
Cermak wasn’t always a top producer for Illinois State. As a freshman in 2020, Cermak hit .208 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 48 at-bats in 13 games. During the pandemic-shortened season, he struggled with his plate discipline, posting 19 strikeouts and two walks.
Last season, Cermak showed improvement at the plate. He had a .284 batting average with 10 doubles, 11 home runs and 40 RBIs in 190 at-bats in 55 games.
This season, Cermak has enhanced his skills and looks like a five-tool player. The junior outfielder is batting .327 with 10 doubles, 18 home runs and 39 RBIs in 171 at-bats in 43 games. He has cut down on his strikes while increasing his walks. He also has displayed speed as a baserunner, stealing seven bases.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound center fielder has a well-balanced toolset. Cermak, a right-handed hitter, features an exciting blend of power and speed. He uses a compact swing to consistently drive the ball with authority to all fields due to his above-average power.
He needs to improve his swing-and-miss concerns. But overall, he has made notable strides offensively, citing his individual work for his growth.
“Every night after practice, I go to the cages and take another extra 150 cuts off the machine, whether it’s set at fastball or sliders,” Cermak said. “It has really helped me to have success this year.”
Defensively, Cermak started his collegiate career as a third baseman. He moved to the outfield his sophomore season, despite never playing the position. Although he grew up playing shortstop and third base, he looks like a natural outfielder.
Cermak has above-average speed and arm strength. He has mostly played center field for Illinois State the last two years, and scouts believe he can handle the position in pro ball.
“I was in right field, and the very first ball hit to me was a slicing line drive,” Cermak said. “I laid out for it and wasn’t even close to it. Coach (Steve) Holm loved how I went about it, and I eventually moved to center field. It came naturally to me out there.”
Despite Cermak’s success, Illinois State hasn’t performed up to its expectations this season. Illinois State has a 19-27 record with four games left in the regular season.
Illinois State ranks second-last in the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season standings. But all eight teams in the conference qualify for the postseason tournament, giving the Redbirds a chance to go on a run and extend their season.
“Of course, we want to be winning more, but we have had some tough losses,” Cermak said. “We are battling some injuries right now, so I think it will really click once we get it going.”