Mets RHP prospect Ryley Gilliam has been a fast riser through the Mets' system since being selected in the fifth round of the 2018 MLB Draft. The reliever is now pitching out of the bullpen for Triple-A Syracuse and could be a late-inning force in the majors sooner rather than later...
Weight: 170 lbs
MLB Pipeline Mets Prospect Ranking: 20
2019 Statistics: 3.52 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 3-0 record with 3 saves in 30.2 innings pitched over 20 games while allowing 23 hits and 9 walks and striking out 46.
Ryley Gilliam was born in Marietta, Georgia, but he grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia. He attended Kennesaw Mountain High School where he lettered four times in baseball. He was named the Cobb County Pitcher of the Year as a junior.
Perfect Game ranked him as the 168th best high school player in the country during his senior season and had him topping out at 94 mph at events. He committed to Clemson and ended up not getting drafted by any MLB club out of high school due to his commitment to Clemson as well as his smaller build.
As a freshman for Clemson, Gilliam appeared in 15 games, including six starts. He posted a 6.10 ERA and walked 18 while striking out only 16 in 31 innings pitched. As a sophomore, Clemson moved Gilliam to the bullpen full time and he appeared in 27 games. He even got some opportunities to close, saving four games. In 35 innings, he allowed 29 hits and 14 walks while striking out 50. In the summer after his sophomore year he played for the USA Collegiate National Team and had a 0.00 ERA with 3 saves in 9 relief appearances.
Gilliam really burst on the national scene as a junior in 2018 while posting a 1.41 ERA and 11 saves as the Clemson closer. He was a 2nd team All American by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 127th best prospect in the 2018 MLB Draft. The Mets drafted Gilliam in the fifth round, No. 140 overall, and signed him to a $550,000 bonus.
With The Mets
After being drafted and signed by the Mets, Jim Callis from MLB Pipeline labeled Gilliam as a fast riser and predicted that he would be one of the first members of the 2018 MLB Draft class to make the major leagues. As of this writing, that still can potentially prove true as there has not been a big league debut by any member of the 2018 Draft as of now.
Gilliam began his pro career with Brooklyn as many early-round college draft picks do. He appeared in 17 games and had five saves. He pitched 17.1 innings, allowing 11 hits and 13 walks while striking out 31. The abnormally high walk rate was mostly considered to be because he ended up working 55.2 innings in 2018 between Clemson and Brooklyn.
2019 is where things have gotten really fun for Gilliam. He has appeared across three levels of the Mets minor league system in less than three months. He made seven appearances with High-A St Lucie and posted a 2.53 ERA while striking out 16 and walking only two in 10.2 innings. He was then promoted to Double-A Binghamton, where he posted a 4.34 ERA and struck out 28 with seven walks in 18.2 innings. However, his ERA was a bit bloated as can happen with relievers with two very rough outings. On May 27, he allowed four earned runs in 1.2 innings against Trenton and on June 2 he allowed three earned runs in 1.0 inning against Portland. Aside from those appearances, he was not scored upon in nine of his other 10 outings with Binghamton.
Gilliam was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse along with Anthony Kay on June 10 and he made his Syracuse debut on Tuesday night, throwing a perfect 1.1 innings with two strikeouts. Gilliam was drafted last June and made his professional debut on July 8. In less than a calendar year he has made it to Triple-A ,which is very impressive.
Gilliam has a vintage reliever two-pitch-mix with a plus fastball that will reside in the 95-97 mph range and a plus curveball that he will throw in the upper 70s-low 80s with great downward action. He is able to use both pitches in any count and can use both to get strikeouts. Gilliam is a competitor on the mound who really goes after hitters with an incredibly quick arm action to generate his velocity and high spin rates on his curveball.
Gilliam has obviously lived up to the billing as a fast riser as he is one level away from being in the major leagues. It won't shock me whatsoever if he continues his great season with Triple-A Syracuse and makes it to the Mets before the season is over.
I am not entirely sure if Gilliam will end up being a closer in the major leagues as he had been in college and some in the minor leagues, but he certainly has late-inning upside. The Mets have had their share of issues in the bullpen, so having someone like Gilliam who possesses set-up man type potential is pretty exciting.
Drafting college relievers early has proven to be a very risky strategy, but credit is due to Tommy Tanous and the scouting department who drafted Gilliam. By all accounts, it seems they have drafted a future legitimate member of a big league bullpen who may give them a major league return on their investment in his first full pro season.