Word is that the Atlanta Braves will promote third base prospect Rio Ruiz to the major league roster following completion of the Triple-A International League playoffs. Ruiz was acquired by the Braves in the January 2015 Evan Gattis trade with the Houston Astros. Let's see what he has to offer.
First, the pre-season take from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book, based on Ruiz's weak .233/.333/.324 performance in 2015 in Double-A.
Rio Ruiz, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 180 DOB: May 22, 1994
2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade B
If you’re looking for positives, Rio Ruiz continues to show a good feel for the strike zone as well as decent defense at third base. If you’re looking for negatives, look no further than his lack of power development and mediocre overall output in Double-A. Ruiz performed well in June (.310/.424/.380) and August (.302/.353/.481) but hit very poorly in April, May, and July, parsing out to below average production overall (wRC+91). Scouting reports depend on when the observer in question saw him. During the weak stretches he showed a mechanical swing that got out of synch easily, but during the good stretches his swing looked smooth and efficient. This dichotomy goes back at least two seasons: he generated the same type of split scouting reports in 2013 and 2014 though the statistical results were more erratic from month to month last year as Double-A pitchers could attack his weaknesses more effectively. I have been optimistic about Ruiz in the past and he is still young enough to develop, but a downgrade is unavoidable. Grade C+.
Ruiz was considerably more effective in 2016, hitting .271/.355/.400 for Triple-A Gwinnett with 10 homers and 61 walks in 465 at-bats; that's not outstanding, but it is decent (wRC+ 119) and certainly much better than his poor 2015 season. As in past campaigns there was still an up-and-down nature to his performance: he was excellent in April for example (.310/.389/.452) then slumped badly in May (.198/.309/.284) before smoothing out his performance for the rest of the season, though he did finish in a slump, hitting .100 in his last 10 games.
The "good Ruiz" (smooth swing, good plate discipline) appeared more frequently than the "bad Ruiz" (awkward swing, bad approach) this year. He did quite well against right-handers (.833 OPS) but was almost helpless against lefties (.522 OPS) and ultimately he may fit best as a platoon bat.
One key positive point is his third base defense, which has improved massively over the last three seasons. He's reduced his error rate by almost two-thirds compared to 2013 while maintaining the range to handle the position.
At age 22, Ruiz still has plenty of slack on the age curve. Given his inconsistent track record, it seems likely that he'll need time to adjust to major league conditions. My guess is that he'll eventually be a .260ish hitter with a decent walk rate, moderate power, and above-average defense, though he may always be streaky.