Ryan Atkinson Goes From Indy Ball To Big League Camp
Righthander Ryan Atkinson went about 13 months between his final college outing and the next time he picked up a baseball just days before an independent league tryout. It’s taken him a little more than a year and a half to find his way to big league camp. The 24-year-old Atkinson is the latest unexpected prospect the Diamondbacks are becoming known for producing. Signed out of the independent Frontier League in July 2016, he reached Double-A Jackson in 2017 and finished the season in the Arizona Fall League.
"It’s just amazing and crazy, just the opportunities I’ve received—and that the Diamondbacks believe in me,” Atkinson said. "I just have to keep showing up and being prepared and ready for these opportunities because they’re paying off. It’s very exciting. It’s happening too fast already.”
Atkinson was lightly scouted out of Cincinnati, where he posted subpar numbers in four seasons, walking too many, striking out too few and leaving with a career 4.66 ERA.
After going undrafted and graduating in 2015, he started working as a personal trainer, eventually landing a job as an assistant patient services manager at his alma mater's medical center. It was then, he said, that clients and family kept encouraging him to give baseball another shot.
"It kind of sat in my head, and I just decided to see what’s available,” he said.
The following June, Atkinson emailed the Frontier League, asking about a possible tryout, and was told there was one coming up. He hadn’t done so much as play catch in more than a year.
"I had five days to prepare,” Atkinson said.
The layoff apparently didn’t bother him. The 6-foot-3 righty signed with Evansville and logged 5.2 shutout innings before D-backs scout Chris Carminucci, who had attended the workout in June, signed him.
"His fastball was pretty average; he was 90-93 (mph),” Carminucci said. "But he had this changeup that had good shape. He sold it well and had some fade to the end of it. He showcased himself with that one pitch. I was really intrigued.”
In 175 innings in the minors, Atkinson has logged a 3.29 ERA with 206 strikeouts. His velocity touched 97 mph in the AFL after mostly sitting in the low 90s during the season.
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But Atkinson comes with red flags. At his most age-appropriate levels—Double-A and the AFL—he recorded a walk rate of 6.1 per nine innings. Scouts say he also doesn’t possess a dependable third pitch.