Fleet-footed outfielder Esteury Ruiz has been informed that he’ll be on the Athletics’ Opening Day roster, manager Mark Kotsay announced to the team’s beat on Friday (Twitter link via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle). It hasn’t yet been decided whether that’ll be as the team’s primary center fielder, however. Kotsay indicated the team still has decisions to make in the outfield.
Ruiz, 24, has had a whirlwind nine months, going from the Padres to the Brewers as part of the Josh Hader trade only to be flipped to the A’s just months later in the three-team Sean Murphy swap. Atlanta sent catcher William Contreras and righty Justin Yeager to Milwaukee in that deal, and the Brewers also picked up righty Joel Payamps from Oakland as part of the arrangement.
After all that shuffling, Ruiz looks as though he’ll finally have a clear path to a potential everyday role. He’s done practically everything he could to win this spot on the roster, recording an impressive .325/.404/.475 batting line with a homer, three doubles, six steals (in seven tries) and five walks against four strikeouts in 48 trips to the plate.
Ruiz is among the fastest players in the sport, evidenced by a ridiculous 86 stolen bases in 102 tries between Double-A, Triple-A and a brief big league debut last year. He also turned in a sensational .332/.447/.526 batting line between Double-A and Triple-A. The raw numbers are clearly off the charts, but scouts are also wary of Ruiz’s frequent weak contact and ability to handle top-tier pitching at the MLB level.
It bears mentioning that he upped his walk rate in the minors by a considerable margin last year and did so while simultaneously paring back his strikeout rate. If he can come anywhere close to replicating last year’s 12.2% minor league walk rate and 17.4% minor league strikeout rate at the big league level, Ruiz’s speed could be a carrying tool that allows him to carve out a role as a big league regular. Speed alone won’t make him a surefire big leaguer, of course, but it’s hard not to be intrigued by his baserunning prowess, gaudy minor league numbers and strong spring showing.
Ruiz’s exact role in the outfield remains uncertain, perhaps in part because the out-of-options Cristian Pache has largely kept pace with him this spring, Pache, acquired from the Braves in the Matt Olson trade, is a former top prospect who has looked completely overmatched by Major League pitching but is one of the game’s top defensive talents. He hit just .166/.218/.241 with the A’s a year ago but has turned in a .317/.349/.439 batting line this spring. After striking out in 27% of his plate appearances last year, he’s fanned in just 14% of his plate appearances this spring.
[Related: The Athletics’ Outfield Dilemma]
It’s a small sample, as is all spring data, but it’s a welcome sign of encouragement with regard to Pache’s future. There’s room in the outfield for both Pache and Ruiz alongside Ramon Laureano, but waiver claim Conner Capel is also enjoying a strong spring: .278/.447/.500 in 47 plate appearances. Capel has minor league options remaining but is making a case for an outfield spot himself.
Given the lack of established talent on Oakland’s roster, it’s feasible that the A’s could rotate all of Laureano, Ruiz, Pache, Capel through the lineup, perhaps also giving occasional outfield reps to Seth Brown. JJ Bleday, acquired from the Marlins for A.J. Puk but optioned to Triple-A earlier this spring, figures to eventually get a look in the Majors this season as well. However it all shakes out, it seems quite likely that the A’s will want Ruiz in the lineup more often than not. The fact that they made him one of the centerpieces of their return for Murphy is indicative of how they view his long-term potential, and carrying him on the roster in anything less than a regular role would be surprising.
I see no reason to keep Ruiz with the club if he isn’t starting.
He might. They really really really…. love this guy.
Well, he doesn’t need to start at any particular position. He has the ability to move around some.
Fan favorite …. With both of their fans
The heads of stat nerds are going to implode all over the country. “How can he be this good when his exit velocity is so low?”
Nobody said that because Ruiz’s raw power is one of his better traits. He didn’t show it off in his brief Major League stint, but that was only 36 PAs and less than 30 batted ball events.
Graded 50 raw/40 game at last report on Fangraphs, guess we’ll see how it plays out. (Was slightly below average in 90th percentile exit velocity during his time in the minors last season.)
There are plenty of sites that have Ruiz listed as a “bust” candidate because he “doesn’t hit the ball hard.”
(Sports Illustrated) The worry about how he’ll perform revolves around his exit velocities. His average exit velo last season in that small sample size was just 73 miles per hour, while the league average was 88.4. The lowest exit velocity from a MLB regular last season was Jose Iglesias at 83.8, followed closely by Tony Kemp at 84.4. Among players with at least 25 batted balls, Ruiz’s 73 mph ranked last in all of baseball
(Sam Dykstra/MILB.com) Something to note about Esteury Ruiz as he makes his MLB debut: He had 96 batted balls tracked by Statcast at Triple-A. Only 18 had an exit velocity of 95+ mph. That’s a hard-hit rate of 18.8%. No Padres player has a hard-hit rate below 20% this season.
(mlbtraderumors.com) He hit .332/.447/.526 in 541 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season, but Ruiz also posted bottom-of-the-scale exit velocity and hard contact numbers. His lack of hard contact can be somewhat erased by what’ll surely be plenty of infield hits, but there are questions about how impactful his bat and glove can be at the game’s top level.
That was just from about five minutes looking at results of a Google search.
I had him at 15 to 20 hr. Velocity isn’t impressive but he has the btb and path. Liked the Hader trade for MIL. Like the Contreras trade as well.
Like all “advanced” or whatever statistics, applying them to all players doesn’t work.
Cleveland has 3-5 contact hitters (a few may begin in AAA this year) starting with Steven Kwan – who slashed: .298 / .373 / .400 / .772 with a 124 OPS+ as a rookie last year. He doesn’t have strong exit velocity at all. However, he’s very good about serving the ball out to open areas. Last year Luis Arraez won the AL Batting Title (which doesn’t matter anymore) slashing: .316 / .375 / .420 / .795 with a 130 OPS+. He too is a contact hitter that hits the ball the way it’s pitcher (most people following baseball todays find that phrase funny because they never batted against overhand pitchers). He too doesn’t have very good exit velocities.
With the additional open spaces on the field due to the ending of the extreme shifts, contact hitters that can hit the ball to the open areas will continue to prosper (and we’re seeing more contact hitters coming up through the minors to replace the free swinging batters that K a lot instead of putting the ball in play; often moving runners up even when they make an out).
Mr. Ruiz can dink a pitch to an open area, steal 2nd, and it’s the same as a power hitter that one hops a ball to the OF fence for a double….and with his speed Mr. Ruiz has a better chance of scoring on a single then a lumbering power hitter.
I liked him when the Brewers got him in trade. I like him on the A’s and understand why they gave up (as did the Braves) so much to get him. He has a chance to be a true lead-off hitter that sparks an offense (and irritates pitchers more then a guy that hits a HR off him).
I always love to point out that Ruiz has a career SLG in the minors about 40 points higher than William Contreras. And that SLG wouldn’t include single/steal second “doubles.”
There are more kinds of hits than just home runs.
Yes and despite what some may think, you can score 10 or more runs without hitting any home runs at all .
That’s the problem with todays all-or-nothing game; it’s all about launch angle and exit velocity and how far you can crush it. However, thanks to that Home Run numbers are not really up, Batting Average is down to near embarrassing levels on many hitters abd strikeouts are through the roof.
It will be nice to see a throw back player that can actually steal bases and play small ball instead of every hitter coming to the plate trying to hit a 3 run Homer with no one on base
Well, it seems right now all is “future potential” with the A’s. We will see where this is going…
It will go where it always goes: the young core will develop and have them competitive for 4-5 seasons then get dismantled again and lather, rinse, repeat…
i like al conin
How did the A’s trade all that talent and get so little in return?
Ruiz, Langeliers, Muller, Waldichuck, Hoglund, Tarnok, Cusick, Sears. They did all right
They did alright until the Murphy trade. Way too little for 3 years of possibly the 3rd best catcher in baseball.
That depends on how Ruiz and Muller perform. If both live up to potential than trading from a position of depth, even if he’s the best Catcher in Baseball will have been worth it
Absolutely. But my fans who love and worship me expect instant evaluation.
Always liked that kid when he was with the Pads..Hope he has a big year.
Pretty sure my neighbors dog could make the A’s. His only problem is when he steals a base he keeps bringing it back to the dugout. Work in progress.
As a Brewer fan, I will be watching him! See what we missed.
Nothing. Most Brewer fans hated the Hader trade so you would have never had this prospect if fans were in charge. And most would have traded him for Contreras.
He struck out in a quarter of his plate appearances from 2017 through 2019, but cut it down to just 20.7% in 2021, then 17.4% last year. Ruiz has always had the potential to be a power/speed threat, and seemed to tap into that potential when he cut the K’s down.
On top of that, the A’s have Brent Rooker sporting a 1.023 OPS this spring and a long history of crushing AAA with some struggles at the MLB level in sporadic (at best) opportunities in the big show. Still, tough to ignore Rooker’s huge power and his .523 OBP.
Rooker’s a high strikeout guy, but his 19.5% BB rate offsets a lot of the 29.3% K rate this spring.
Picked him up on my fantasy team.
Yeah worth a spec add for the possible steals alone
OPS of .879 in 40 spring training games? Guy’s gonna rake! I look forward to him being the MVP and ROY for 2023.
Get Off My Mound
Very excited to see what he can bring to the table. I know scouts are worried about his ability to hit, but I’m encouraged by his plate discipline, and am even more excited about what he can do on the basepaths.
Esteury is for the birds.
I know, I keep wanting to call him “Estuary” Ruiz.
The Big Yo
A’s are gonna be sneaky this year
Sneaky Bad? Sneaky Horrible? Sneaky into the PCL? You can’t mean Sneaky Good. Chuckle Chuckle.
No matter how bad the A’s are this year, they will be better than any one expects, because everyone has set the bar so low. Its the same with Detroit, even though they have pretty much the same team that was projected to be in the Wildcard hunt last year. Both teams will surprise.
I think the Reds will be better as well.
Why why why I wanted Ruiz to go to AAA and kill it in Vegas . I wanted Pache to play his way off the A’s . Pache should’ve stayed in AAA all last year. , but A’s like wasting options on players If anything I wanted to get rid of Laureano . A’s don’t have to win anything this year . Just show development from the young guys. .
He has a chance to lead the league in steals if he sticks.
You can’t steal first base.
He had a .447 obp in the minors last year so I doubt he will need to.
Royals fans might recognize the name Esteury Ruiz From the horrible trade in 2017 when Dayton Moore decided to go for it when the Royals were only 2 1/2 games out of the wildcard. We traded him along with Matt Strahm (and Travis wood) to the Padres for three pitchers. Two were terrible one was decent.