Randy Ruiz was signed back in July of 1999 by the Cincinnati Reds as a non-drafted free agent. In two seasons at rookie ball, Ruiz showed early promise with a 351/440/544 slash line in 333 at-bats. Apparently nobody was paying attention. Ruiz toiled in ‘A’ level ball from 2001-2004 spanning four seasons and by the end of 2004 was with his 4th major league organization. In those four seasons he compiled a 286/368/488 slash line in over 400 games. Then from 2004-2007 spanning three seasons he did not manage to get above ‘AA’ ball and by this time had played for a total of 8 total major league organizations (including a return to Philly). In 411 total ‘AA’ games Ruiz again showed the ability to hit the baseball putting up a 318/383/591 line. He was also suspended my MLB for 30 games in July of 2005 for violating the major league baseball drug prevention program.
There was clearly more going on with Ruiz than first glance would lead you to believe. Although he was not the hot prospect of any of the eight organizations he had been through, his numbers suggested he deserved at least the courtesy of a major league appearance and/or cameo. He finally got promoted to ‘AAA’ in late 2007 and for most of 2008 and again put up solid overall numbers (303/355/517). In late 2008 the Minnesota Twins called up him for his first shot at the major leagues at the ripe age of 31.
Ruiz has shown a clear ability to hit the ball with authority but has also shown a reluctance to be patient at the plate as through the levels he showed a propensity to strike out and wasn’t all that willing to take the free pass. Outside of a handful of freakishly great hitters this kind of lousy plate discipline is not a pre-cursor to success at the big league level.
‘A’ – 10% BB rate, 30% K rate
‘AA’ – 9 % BB rate, 26% K rate
‘AAA’ – 6% BB rate, 28% K rate
His average was also been propped up by fairly gaudy BABIP numbers throughout his minor league career also. I’d say the BABIP average in the high .350 range, and for a guy with average speed this was a bit of an anomaly. He did hit 181 HRs in 3652 minor league at-bats (rookie ball excluded) or 1 in every 20 at-bats, not a torrid pace for an aged minor leaguer but still respectable.
So what can we expect going forward? Frankly, it’s hard to say. Ruiz is currently batting 269/363/513 for the Jays, good enough for a .375 wOBA (weight on-base average) in a very small sample size of only 78 at-bats, nowhere near enough to draw any strong conclusions about future production. He has been slightly lucky on balls hit into play with a .333 BABIP but not far off his career minor league mark. He still hasn’t shown any improvements in the plate discipline department (34.6% K rate) and he obviously loves to fish out of the strike zone (39.5% outside zone swing rate!).
Unfortunately there is more as the biggest red flag is the hugely unsustainable HR/FB rate of 35%, that’s not a typo. For comparison sake current Jays HR leader 2B Aaron Hill has had a monster power season and his current HR/FB is over twice his career rate yet only stands at 15.8%. Take a moment to let that one sink in.
As Jeff Blair wrote Randy Ruiz has been a feel good story for a Blue Jays team and fan base in desperate need of something positive to hang their hat on, and there is nothing wrong with that. As opposed to anointing him our DH of the future (or even for 2010) let’s enjoy the ride but also take it for what it’s worth. If I had to think of a valid comparison, it would be Andruw Jones; unfortunately I am speaking of the current out of shape version.