In his first season of rookie ball as an 18-year-old in the Twins organization, he batted .300. At Class A, he fared even better with a .318 average. And it continued in Double-A and Triple-A when he batted .277 and .288, respectively, in his first full seasons at each level.
Even in the Majors, Ryan proved he could hit when he was called up by the Twins for 27 games in 2003, when he went on to bat .393 with a .441 on-base percentage and .754 slugging percentage in 61 at-bats.
Still, for whatever reason, Ryan just hasn't stuck at the big league level, where he's hit .265 in 127 games with the Twins over parts of four seasons with his last Major League appearance coming in 2005.
But now Ryan is out to prove himself with the Angels and he's hitting just like he always has. The 32-year-old Ryan entered Thursday leading the Cactus League with a .714 batting average and is turning some heads in the clubhouse as the Angels' utility role is up for grabs this season.
"He's a guy that is certainly making the most out of every opportunity he's getting," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's versatile and we're working on that now with him getting work at first base, third base and the corner outfields. And he can handle the bat, whether it's hit and run or working the counts."
Ryan's secret so far in Spring Training is that he's not putting any pressure on himself as he's already tasted the big leagues and knows that it's still a long shot to make the club out of camp after spending the past four seasons in Triple-A with the Braves, Pirates and Marlins organizations.
"I'm not fighting for a job in my opinion," Ryan said. "It's not make or break for me. I just wanna take it day by day and have fun with it."
Ryan, though, tore up Triple-A the past two seasons by batting .294 with a .979 OPS in 2008 while splitting time with the Pirates' and Marlins' Triple-A affiliates and hit .300 with an .858 OPS in 2009 while being named a Pacific Coast League All-Star with the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate.
But even with those numbers, Ryan never got the call up to the Majors like he did in those four seasons with the Twins. So now even if he doesn't make the Angels' big league roster out of Spring Training, his hope is that he can be called up later in the season to help the club.
"If they need someone during the season, wherever I'm at, hopefully I'll get my name mentioned," Ryan said. "But I'm not putting any pressure on myself to make the team now because it's unlikely. I just want to go out there and have a good time out there."
If Ryan does get the call, however, there will be one familiar face in the clubhouse Angels clubhouse leader Torii Hunter, who was with the Twins when Ryan played with Minnesota.
"Making the postseason and watching Torii play every day are two memories I'll always have," said Ryan, who went 0-for-1 in his lone playoff at-bat in 2003. "You try to mimic Torii, but it's impossible because you don't have the same skills. Someday I'll be able to tell my kids I played with the best center fielder I've ever seen in my opinion."
So Ryan has yet another chance to play with Hunter, and if he continues his torrid pace this spring he'll certainly make it difficult for Scioscia to keep him off the Major League roster.
But the ever-humble Ryan isn't even entertaining that possibility quite yet.
"I mean, my goodness, it would be a good story, I would say, and something I'd be very proud of, but I'm not even thinking about that," Ryan said. "I'm just excited to be here."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less