Name: Jean Ruiz
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 165
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent in May 2014.
Jean Ruiz spent three seasons in the Dominican Summer League before earning an opportunity to pitch in the US this season. He did not let that opportunity go to waste. Can Ruiz build on his break-through season in 2018?
A low-profile international free agent signing before the 2014 season, Jean Ruiz was well off of the prospect radar at the start of the 2017 campaign. The native of Colombia spent the 2014-2016 seasons pitching for the A’s Dominican Summer League squad. He improved each season and was brought over to the States for Extended Spring Training after posting a 1.78 ERA in 58.1 innings in the DSL in 2016.
Ruiz had a solid stint at Extended in 2017 and he broke camp with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters at the start of the New York-Penn League season. Ruiz wasn’t necessarily expected to remain in the Lake Monsters’ rotation the entire year, but he pitched so well for Vermont, he never gave the A’s coaching staff reason to send him back to Arizona.
Part of the Lake Monsters’ tandem rotation, Ruiz threw 52.1 innings for Vermont in 15 appearances. He posted a 1.38 ERA and a 42:9 K:BB with the Lake Monsters. Ruiz also made one post-season appearance for Vermont, allowing two runs in five innings.
Ruiz was a model of consistency for the Lake Monsters. He walked more than one batter in an outing only once and allowed more than one earned run only once. Ruiz finished the season pitching exceptionally well, allowing four earned runs over 21.1 innings over his final four outings (including the post-season). He walked one and struck-out 12 over that stretch.
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman says that while Ruiz doesn’t yet have big strike-out numbers, the right-hander has an effective approach on the mound.
“He doesn’t have a ton of strike-outs. He’s an aggressive sinkerball type guy,” Lieppman said mid-season. “He’s not very big yet. He’s one of those, like a young Pedro Martinez, really skinny and hasn’t grown into his body yet. But he’s a live arm, quick arm and a guy who made the All-Star team in the New York-Penn League. It’s pretty impressive for a guy to come out of Colombia and be this impressive this early on.”
A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson says that Ruiz could be on-track for more strike-outs in 2018 after adjustments he made during this year’s fall Instructional League.
“He can throw his change-up and his slider for strikes. The only thing about his change-up during the season was that it produced very little swing-and-miss,” Patterson said. “We gave him a two-seam change-up in Instructs, and he might have had a 50% swing-and-miss rate with it. He really made an improvement with his change-up during Instructs. He also has a little bit of an attitude in a good way. He’s also got some deception to his delivery. He’s a little cross-body with a high front shoulder, so there is some deception. It’s a little funky coming out, but he throws strikes.”
Ruiz turned 21 in early September. At 6’1’’, 160, he still has room to add strength to his frame. His fastball currently tops out at 91 MPH, but there is room for him to add velocity as he adds strength. Ruiz generated a 45% groundball rate with Vermont and he allowed only one homerun. He averaged fewer than four pitches per batter faced. If Ruiz can add velocity as he matures, he has a chance to be a very intriguing prospect thanks to his ability to throw strikes with all of his pitches and work in the lower-half of the strike-zone.
Ruiz has improved his numbers every year of his professional career. He will be hard-pressed to improve on his 2017 numbers, but Ruiz should get an opportunity to reach the 100-inning plateau next season. Ruiz is likely to get his first taste of full-season ball with Beloit in 2018.
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