If the Texas Rangers are able to sign 39th-round selection Ryan Woolley
, they could be getting a steal.
Scouts have been on the Virginia native for a few years because of his power arsenal, which includes a fastball that reaches 94 mph on occasion.
Wooley played the first two seasons of his collegiate career at the University of Georgia, posting a 3.14 earned-run average in 28.2 innings as a reliever with the Bulldogs in 2007.
After two seasons at UGA, the right-hander transferred to the University of Alabama-Birmingham. NCAA rules forced him to sit out the 2009 season, but the Atlanta Braves still selected him in the sixth round last year's draft.
The Braves followed Woolley over the summer, but the two sides never reached an agreement after the pitcher logged a 4-5 record and a 7.12 ERA in 36.2 innings with Athletes in Action of the Alaska Baseball League.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound hurler got his first action at UAB as a redshirt junior this season, going 3-4 with a 7.03 ERA. He pitched 64 innings, giving up 88 hits, walking 33 and striking out 48.
As Woolley mentions below, his season got off to a rough start, but he posted better results after a late-season mechanical adjustment, helping the Blazers defeat Tulane and Rice in back-to-back outings.
As a low pick with the option of returning to school for his senior year, the 22-year-old is working on his game and showcasing himself with the SLO Blues of the California Collegiate League the summer.
The Rangers will likely monitor Woolley's progress before deciding whether or not to extend an offer. The pitcher is doing well in his first two starts of the summer, yielding three runs on 13 hits in 10 innings, walking four and striking out 15.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on getting selected by the Rangers?
Ryan Woolley: I'm really excited about––especially the team that I got picked by. With all these young pitchers they keep churning out, they're obviously doing something right. It helps a lot that Nolan Ryan is now such an important part of the upper management.
Cole: Who was your Rangers area scout down there?
Woolley: It was Jeff Wood.
Cole: Did you have much contact with him during the season?
Woolley: Actually, no I did not.
Cole: And had you ever spoken with anyone from the Rangers much in the past?
Woolley: No, I hadn't talked to the Rangers much at all until they picked me, really.
Cole: You got to play in Alaska last summer, up in Fairbanks. I know that's a pretty unique baseball experience. How was that?
Woolley: Yeah, it was awesome. As you're going to sleep, the sun is still right in the middle of the sky, which is crazy. You'll see a moose eating a tree in your front yard. I was blessed, too, because I got to go with Athletes in Action out there. That was an awesome experience in itself.
Cole: To give Rangers fans an idea of what you're like on the mound, can you talk a bit about what kind of pitcher you are and what you've got in your arsenal?
Woolley: I really try to pride myself on how competitive I am. I never back down from any hitter I face. I'm a fastball-curveball-changeup guy. I think all three of my pitches are good, and I just need to really hone them in and work on my command a little bit.
Cole: This was your redshirt junior season. How'd you feel about your season?
Woolley: I started off pretty rough, actually. I did not get off to a good start. Then about three-quarters away through, my pitching coach and I really found a mechanical adjustment that I had to make. Once I made it, it really helped me take off. I ended up having some good outings at the end of the season, which I think helped me look a little bit better in scouts' eyes.
Cole: What was the mechanical adjustment you made that fixed things?
Woolley: I was just opening up too soon on my way to the plate. I wasn't staying directional.
Cole: When you fixed that, was it command that the biggest benefit from it?
Woolley: It helped everything––my command, my stuff, the movement I got on my pitches. Everything just improved.
Cole: You had your best season statistically during your freshman year, but how do you feel you've improved your game in your years of college?
Woolley: I think if you put the pitcher I was freshman year against the pitcher I was this year, it wouldn't even be close. I would just be able to destroy that guy. My stuff has gotten a lot better, I think.
A lot of the reason my numbers were so good freshman year is because I was a short reliever. I was able to really just unleash, whereas this year as a starter, I was not necessarily conserving energy, but I was definitely not going 100 percent with each pitch.
Cole: How much focus have you put on your changeup since moving into a starting pitching role over the last couple years?
Woolley: That's actually a pitch that I've kind of only gotten to develop recently. It has moved along fairly slow. At times, it's my best pitch. But consistency is the problem I have with it right now. I'm working really hard on it and eventually, I think it will be my best pitch.
Cole: Being a junior that has the choice to return to UAB if you'd like, can you talk about your chances of signing with the Rangers versus returning to school?
Woolley: Ideally, I would sign with the Rangers. A lot of it is going to come down to them––if we can get a deal done.
Cole: Have you talked to the Rangers much yet?
Woolley: No, we haven't really discussed a deal yet. I'm thinking they may follow me a little bit this summer. Then hopefully we'll be able to come to some sort of agreement.
Cole: You're playing in the California Collegiate League this summer. How do you feel it's going so far, and what do you look forward to working on out there?
Woolley: My first start went really well. I'm just really excited about being able to come down here and develop my command. I really want to control all three of my pitches, hone my mechanics a little bit, and just be ready once I sign to hopefully skyrocket through if I can.
Despite a 7.03 ERA at UAB this season, right-hander Ryan Woolley was selected in the 39th round by the Texas Rangers because of his good raw stuff. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the 22-year-old pitcher, who is playing summer ball in California.
Lone Star Dugout interviews UAB right-hander and 39th round selection Ryan Woolley