In times like these, shouldn’t we all be so lucky to be promised a Bliss-filled future of baseball in our city? Sometimes, that feels like a lot to ask. Auburn shortstop Ryan Bliss perfectly personifies his name. A compact ball of energy and electricity, Bliss is the type of player who not only contributes at a high level on the field, but does wonders for your team and city off the field as well.
First off, as far as the intangibles go, Bliss has a billion-dollar smile, and that never hurts.
Listen, it did well for Francisco Lindor. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
Bliss is a diminutive package of combustible gasoline on the field. Standing just 5-foot-9, the LaGrange, Georgia native’s game towers over most other shortstops in his draft class. There’s not much Bliss has proven incapable of at this point, and that’s not something most “prototypical” middle infielders in this class can claim.
Born in Burbank, California, Bliss certainly brought a bit of his west coast flair into the heart of dixie, but he’s also inherited or merely amplified the southern hospitality and humility so famously found in the Yellowhammer. He’s incredibly gracious with his time, thankful for any attention he receives, and quick to dismiss any individual achievements conquered without the help of his teammates. The guy simply oozes cordiality and kindness and would be an enormous boon to any locker room he’s thrust upon.
As one might imagine, Bliss’ stature has helped park a chip on his shoulder. His father, Isiah, is a mammoth man, a former tight end for Jackson State University. It’s easy to surmise the comparisons to his father’s size have helped contribute to his larger-than-life play-style.
Unfortunately for Bliss, some talent evaluators will knock him for his size, throwing out superlatives knocking his body and future projection. The fact is, Bliss fights above his weight class and you’d be foolish to bet against David in this circumstance. As a sophomore in 18 games, Bliss hit .377/.412/.597 with a couple of homers and five stolen bases. He ran a 7.5 percent K-rate and walked just as many times as he punched out. He was a staple at the front of an impressive Tigers lineup.
2021 will be his third go-round with the famous navy blue and burnt orange. The tools may ultimately decide where he ends up, but the bark in this dog won’t hurt his draft stock either.
Tools (Future Value)
Bliss has hit and hit and hit everywhere he has gone. There’s always an adjustment period, but as he settles in, the stick really heats up. In Bliss’ final 30 at-bats of his freshman yeah, he hit .382 with a homer and two doubles, raising his average 15 points over the final three weeks. That parlayed into his aforementioned .377 sophomore campaign.
Scouts love his bat-to-ball skills and approach at the plate, and some are warming up to a potential marginal tick-up in the usable power department.
Bliss has a whippy bat that he controls through the zone for a long time. He uses the entire field and relies on his hands to manipulate the barrel into favorable hitting positions. Bliss isn’t the most physical guy in the box, using his upper body primarily to dictate his bat path. He employs a significant leg kick that he’s seemingly mastered in terms of timing and putting himself in a good cadence to cover every pitch and quadrant.
Not to throw any unrealistic expectation on Bliss, but there was a point in time when some scouts believed Jose Altuve would never hit more than a handful of homers per year. The loud leg kick, the excessive bat waggle... it was a lot to digest without any sort of profound precedent. Bliss has some of the same profile markers going for him. Altuve eventually changed the attack angle of his swing and really worked to employ his lower half on ambush pitches. That turned a well-below average power bat into an above average one.
Now, the chances of that happening with Bliss are admittedly slim. The Altuve trajectory is an outlier and an extraordinary outcome in terms of player development. The possibility is there, but it’s unlikely.
Bliss has a much flatter bat path than Altuve does and also a thinner frame. He’d probably need to put on 15 pounds to get into a similar build as the Astros second baseman. Bliss also likes to use an all-fields approach and unless he wants to change that and focus on extending out in front to get to his pull-side juice, he’ll likely never be more than an 8 to 12 homer guy at the next level.
The swing and the bat profile actually reminds me a great deal of a young Tim Anderson. It took Anderson years to find more thump at the plate. But the White Sox star had the luxury of a better-leveraged body to grow into. Bliss doesn’t have that punchy ceiling.
Let me preface this grade with the following: I think Bliss is probably best suited for second base at the big league level.
For as good a college shortstop as he is, Bliss does have some detractors on defense that may inhibit his ability to stick at the position. We’ll get to the arm in a bit, but that’s the primary culprit.
Bliss is lauded for his hands and feet. He does a fantastic job of rounding through ground balls and consistently getting his feet in a position to make an accurate through. His hands are absolute butter and he turns a mean double-play thanks to a quick-twitch transfer on the bag.
Bliss also does a really nice job of smothering balls to his left and his right, giving himself a shot to throw baserunners out. The skillset really screams second base, and that’s okay! A plus defensive second baseman at the big league level is a luxury few put enough stock into.
The first minute or so of this footage should speak volumes.
Bliss’ arm is more often than not characterized as fringe-average, best suited for second base. It’s a shorter arm stroke that lacks the pace necessary for some of the deeper throws in the hole at shortstop. The tool itself plays up a touch thanks to his lightning-fast hands and actions on the dirt, but I do wonder if it might be exposed at the next level. I’d liken his arm to what Seattle had in Jean Segura. It’s good, not great. It can handle the routine plays and cover the spot in a pinch, but it’ll play comfortably at second base.
Bliss gets high marks for his hustle and ability to get down the line. He’s routinely 4.20 to 4.30 seconds home-to-first out of the box, fairly comfortably an above average runner. As Bliss gets stronger, this could creep into the plus grade, but for now, he’s certainly more valuable than not on the base paths and can likely snag a team 15 to 20 bags over the course of 162 games.
Ryan Bliss is the perfect example of being more than the sum of your parts. He gets more out of his game than one might expect, and I suspect there’s more in the tank here. There’s still a good deal of energy loss in his swing, and with a couple tweaks, could become more than currently constructed.
I think a healthy bet for Bliss at the big league level is a .270 hitter who doesn’t strike out and plays a mean brand of defense for his club. There’s also 15-15 potential here if you look hard enough.
Bliss probably doesn’t fit the ball at pick no. 12 for the Mariners, but depending on how his 2021 campaign goes, he could be a prime target Seattle at pick no. 50. He also fills a gaping hole in the farm up the middle on the dirt.