The Athletics announced on Friday that they’ve signed international free agent Norge Ruiz to a minor league contract. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (on Twitter) that Ruiz will receive a $2MM signing bonus. The 22-year-old Cuban right-hander has long been considered one of the more appealing arms in Cuba. Ruiz is subject to international spending limitations due to his age, so he’ll count against Oakland’s bonus pool.
Ruiz’s numbers in three professional seasons in the Cuban National Series are impressive, as he worked to a collective 2.55 ERA in 374 1/3 innings. He averaged just six strikeouts against 3.1 walks per nine innings pitched in that time, though scouting reports on Ruiz indicate that he has the potential to make a significant impact on Oakland’s farm system.
Sanchez ranks Ruiz as the No. 3 prospect on this winter’s international market, and while he didn’t make Baseball America’s list of top international prospects this summer, that was due to the fact that he’d yet to technically be cleared as a free agent. (Ruiz was declared a free agent by MLB back in early September.) Per Sanchez’s above-linked report, Ruiz has a fastball that reaches 94 mph and has plenty of movement on it, and he’s also worked with a slider, changeup, cutter and splitter that are deployed from various arm angles.
BA’s Ben Badler writes today that Ruiz’s changeup a plus pitch and also writes that his slider can flash above-average at times as well. He generates plenty of ground-balls, though there’s some belief that his size could lead to durability issues. Ruiz is listed at 6’0″ and 185 pounds, and that slight frame has led to some skepticism from scouts, though it seems likely that he’ll be given every opportunity to develop as a starting pitcher in the Athletics organization. Ruiz will add an intriguing arm to the upper levels of the Athletics’ system and could conceivably be an option in 2018, if not 2017, depending on how quickly he shakes off the rust as he settles back into game settings and on how quickly he adjusts to facing more advanced competition.