Norge Ruiz Rumors

Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club

Cuban right-hander Norge Ruiz has left the island and will seek a contract with a Major League club, reports’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The 21-year-old Ruiz is one of the top prospects in Cuba, so interest in him would figure to be substantial.

Baseball America’s Ben Badler ranked Ruiz as the No. 8 prospect in Cuba (subscription-only scouting report is highly recommended) less than one month ago, with all seven of the players ranked ahead of him being position players. Ruiz’s age will make him subject to international bonus pools, but as Badler notes in a second piece, he’ll be eligible to sign in the 2015-16 signing period once he establishes residency and applies for free agency with MLB.

That he’s apparently ticketed to sign in the upcoming signing period as opposed to the current period will remove several clubs from the mix. The Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, D-Backs and Angels have all exceeded their 2014-15 bonus pools by more than 15 percent, meaning none of those teams will be able to sign an international amateur for more than $300K. Given Ruiz’s prospect status, that limitation will assuredly preclude any of the aforementioned clubs from signing him.

In the scouting report referenced above, Badler notes that Ruiz was the 2012-13 Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year in Cuba and writes that he “stands out in a country thin on Major League pitching prospects.” Per Badler, he features a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 94 mph, which is complemented by a slider, changeup and splitter. At his best, Ruiz misses bats effectively and keeps the ball on the ground, as evidenced by a 62 percent ground-ball rate in 2014-15, according to Badler. He adds that Ruiz is a very good athlete and has feel for pitching beyond his years, giving him the potential to be a mid-rotation starter in the Majors.

While it’s early to know which teams will pursue Ruiz, it’s believed that the Dodgers are planning to go well over their pool and may already have a significant deal in place with Yadier Alvarez. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them add Ruiz as well. The Blue Jays (Vlad Guerrero Jr.), Twins (Wander Javier) and Phillies (Jhailyn Ortiz) may all have deals that would put them at or over their international budgets in place, according to Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, though each of those clubs would have the ability to acquire enough international bonus money in trades to avoid incurring maximum penalties. (Teams can only acquire up to 50 percent of their originally allotted bonus pool via trade.) Additionally, the Cubs and Rangers will be able to spend aggressively again in the upcoming period and showed a strong willingness to do so in the 2013-14 period.

International Notes: Cuban Prospects, Toritani, Hernandez

In addition to the news on a pair of Korean southpaws, the Angels made major international news earlier today by reportedly agreeing to an $8MM signing bonus with 20-year-old Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin. That signing will prevent the Angels from signing any player from the next two international signing periods for more than $300K and will also require them to pay a 100 tax on each dollar spent over their $2.383MM international bonus pool.

Here are some more international notes from around the league…

  • Ben Badler of Baseball America has updates on his Top 10 Cuban prospects (which will eventually be re-ranked with second basemen Jose Fernandez, Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez leaving the island). Badler notes that top stars Yulieski Gourriel and Alfredo Despaigne have reinforced their status as the most talented players in the league by dominating this past season in Nippon Professional Baseball. He also discusses right-hander Norge Ruiz‘s recovery from a rough first outing and an injury to well-regarded righty Vladimir Garcia.
  • Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani is expected to attempt to jump to Major League Baseball this season, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post within his Top 10 Free Agent predictions. (Toritani doesn’t rank among Sherman’s Top 10.) The 33-year-old shortstop is perceived as a slick fielder, though his .285/.371/.412 batting line offers a bit of upside as well.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Cuban free agent Yasmany Hernandez will be reported by Charles Hairston (the cousin of big leaguers Jerry Hairston and Scott Hairston). Hairston works with the agency Culture 39.

International Notes: Devers, Encarnacion, Ruiz

While most of the top international prospects from this year's July 2 crop have signed, a few notables remain unsigned. Here's the latest on some of Latin America's top prospects, courtesy of Baseball America's Ben Badler…

  • The Red Sox are expected to officially sign No. 3 international prospect Rafael Devers on Friday, Badler tweets. Boston reportedly reached a $1.5MM agreement with the Dominican third baseman back on July 2.
  • Badler also tweets that No. 4 international prospect Luis Encarnacion turns 16 on Friday, at which point he will be eligible to sign. Badler adds that he will be "shocked" if the Phillies don't sign the power-hitting third baseman.
  • One more from Badler, who writes that 19-year-old Cuban right-hander Norge Ruiz has cemented himself as a rising star in the eyes of scouts (subscription required). He's just 5'10" and 170 pounds, but Ruiz worked at 89-94 mph and flashed terrific command of two plus breaking pitches against the U.S. College national team last month.