AZUSA, Calif. -- After playing alongside four college teammates who were drafted during his four-year Azusa Pacific baseball career, senior second baseman Ryan Henley was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 40th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft Saturday afternoon.
Henley put together a solid all-around senior season in the Cougars’ first year of competition as a member of NCAA Division II’s Pacific West Conference, batting .313 (52-for-166) with 15 doubles and five home runs while providing a .974 fielding percentage in the middle of the infield.
“I’m happy and excited for Ryan and the opportunity he’s getting,” Azusa Pacific baseball head coach Paul Svagdis said. “More than anything, it’s a culmination of a lot of hard work on his part, and it couldn’t happen to a better guy. He had a tremendous pro day workout, and he had a really nice season for us. He played a Gold Glove caliber at second base this year, and he’s shown the ability to hit the ball for power.”
Henley was involved in 36 of the 43 double plays turned by Azusa Pacific’s defense in 2013, and his season fielding percentage represented a jump of over 50 points over his career fielding percentage entering his senior campaign.
“He put a lot of work in defensively the last offseason,” Svagdis said. “He was one of the best guys I’ve seen on the back end of the double play in terms of getting the ball in and out of his glove with some arm strength.”
Henley’s offensive game also took a huge step forward his senior year. Entering 2013 with a .244 career batting average, he was one of four Cougars with an average over .300. His 15 doubles and 20 extra-base hits were both career and team highs.
“We saw a big jump in his swing this year, and we saw that it was starting to click late in the spring of his junior year,” Svagdis said. “We started to see his ability to drive the ball when he loosened his hands a little bit and made some adjustments to his swing that really fit him well. It’s really satisfying as a coach to see such a positive end result of a player’s perseverance, of being a good teammate and continuing to work hard through adversity.”
Henley is the 35th all-time MLB draft selection of an Azusa Pacific player, and he’s the 10th Cougar to be picked in the draft since 2007. He joins seven other Azusa Pacific products currently assigned to MLB affiliates, including Stephen Vogt and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who both earned big-league experience last year and are currently battling at Triple-A affiliates for another MLB promotion this season.
“What makes me proud is not only the breadth of number of guys getting this opportunity, but it’s that those who have gotten this chance have turned it into big-league experience,” Svagdis said. “It’s a testament to the players who came before Ryan who set the standard for excellence, where players now come into the program and believe they can be the next Stephen Vogt or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and I think that can be very powerful.”
Henley is the second Azusa Pacific player to be selected by Tampa Bay, which drafted Vogt in the 12th round in 2007. He’s also the first Cougar draftee since Nieuwenhuis to play his entire collegiate career at Azusa Pacific, which has produced 10 MLB draft choices over the past seven seasons.
When Tampa Bay announced the selection of Henley, the Rays noted that Ryan is the grandson of long-time minor league manager and professional scout Gail Henley, who also put together a 14-year playing career that included a Major League stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954.