Draft decision ahead: York’s Sloan is a high-level MLB prospect

The first big game Ryan Sloan pitched in high school was one of those ugly but valuable learning experiences.

He started for York as a freshman in the regional against St. Rita, a game the Dukes lost 11-1.

“It was like a little kid playing against grown men,” Sloan said with a laugh. “That's how I would put it. They were the better team.”

Three years later, Sloan is one of the top pitching prospects in the country. He's committed to Wake Forest and could also be a first-round pick in next month's MLB Draft. MLB Pipeline has him rated as the No. 18 draft prospect.

During the high school season, he gave up just 2 earned runs, piled up 90 strikeouts with 5 walks in 46 innings, and helped York finish fourth in the state for the second year in a row. At the Geneva supersectional, hosted by the Kane County Cougars, his fastball flashed 99 mph on the scoreboard.

The dominant senior season had its roots in that lopsided loss as a freshman.

“I think it was a lesson for Ryan, 'Yeah, I need to develop a third pitch,'” York coach Dave Kalal said. “Now he's got three pitches (four-seam fastball, slider and changeup) that are lights out.”

Sloan admitted he didn't really use the changeup through his junior year of high school, but some high-level summer competition brought a further sense of urgency.

“I went to this USA Baseball event and I faced a team that had eight lefties out of nine batters,” said Sloan, a 6-foot-5 right-hander. “When you're facing these top kids in the country, it's really difficult to get away with a two-pitch mix, especially with a righty slider and fastball that tails away from them. So I got hit around a little bit and that whole weekend I was just stuck on trying to figure out the changeup.

“I ended up facing them again and got a couple guys to swing through it, got a strikeout on it. It kind of flourished into what it is now, which is a pitch I can throw any count, lefty or righty.”

York pitcher Ryan Sloan and catcher Jack Rozmus celebrate their win and Sloane’s no-hitter in the Class 4A Kane County Supersectional against Hononegah at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva on Monday, June 5, 2023. Sandy Bressner/

It's obviously never easy facing someone who throws harder than most major-league pitchers. Sloan takes it a step further by trying to work fast. Between pitches, he'll stay on the rubber, glove in front of his face, ready to throw as soon as the batter gets set.

“I just want to make this at-bat as uncomfortable as I can for a hitter,” he said. “It's such a hard sport to hit a baseball. I want to make the hitter think as much as possible.”

Sloan's father, David, was the starting catcher for York's state championship baseball team in 1993. David Sloan was drafted by the Dodgers in the 49th round a year later but chose to play in college at Austin Peay. That's where he met future spouse, Amanda, a 6-foot-1 all-conference basketball player.

When Ryan was young, the family lived in Oswego and their house had a large backyard ideal for T-ball practice.

“He just loved to hit,” David recalled. “I spent a lot of time throwing batting practice to him and of course the guy becomes a pitcher.”

When Ryan was in fourth grade, the family decided to shorten the commute to work, so they moved to David's hometown of Elmhurst. Even though dad was a college catcher, Ryan's increasing velocity eventually ended the tradition of backyard baseball.

“It was probably freshman year in high school when he started hitting 90 miles an hour,” David said. “His ball has so much movement because he has a three-quarter slot with his arm. Then his slider is moving 18 inches, his changeup is diving down on you. I don't trust my eyes any more.”

It's hard to predict exactly what will happen in the MLB Draft, which starts with the first round on July 14. Ryan will attend the draft combine in Phoenix this week, where the plan is to interview with teams, but not throw.

Every pick in the MLB Draft comes slotted with a projected amount of money for a signing bonus. For example, the Cubs' No. 14 pick has a slot value of $5.07 million. So depending on where he's drafted, it could be an easy choice to pass on college and sign with a major-league team. Or it could be a really tough decision if he's taken in the second round or below.

“It's a win-win,” Ryan said. “I've put myself in a position where there's really no bad decision here. Whether I go get a great degree and play for a baseball program like Wake Forest or go live out everyone's dream and try to make it to the league.

“There's no real wrong decision. I think it's a great spot where we're at right now.”

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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