Rio Ruiz was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the fourth round in 2012 from high school in La Puente, California. Following a solid 2014 season in the California League, he was traded to the Braves in the Evan Gattis deal. He had a spotty 2015 season (.233/.333/.324) in Double-A but made some progress in 2016 in Triple-A, earning a brief major league call-up last season.
Ruiz was rated as a Grade C+ and ranked 19th on the pre-season Top 20 Atlanta Braves Prospect list with the following comment:
19) Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick by Astros in 2012, traded to Braves in Evan Gattis deal; hit .271/.355/.400 with 10 homers, 61 walks, 116 strikeouts in 465 at-bats in Triple-A, went 2-for-7 with a triple in the majors; pretty swing with a good eye for the strike zone but results never seem to quite match the visual talent; has dramatically improved his defense over the last two years, which buys his bat more time; ETA 2017.
In 2017 he was hitting .262/.305/.447 with four homers, nine walks, and 40 strikeouts in 141 at-bats for Triple-A Gwinnett.
Our own Wayne Cavadi filed an in-person report on Ruiz earlier this month, noting that Ruiz “has a pretty, fluid and big swing that seemingly invokes more power than Ruiz has yet to display. That being said, he does make contact. Ruiz’s issue has normally been that the contact is usually hit directly at somebody. This is once again evidenced in 2017 with a .277 BABIP.”
Wayne’s take is very much the same as my own: Ruiz looks like he should be a good hitter; he passes the eye test certainly, but the results just haven’t been there consistently. Drawing on Ruiz’s spray charts, comments from Braves analyst Benjamin Chase, and his own personal observations, Wayne believes that Ruiz could improve if he simply learns to pull the ball more. That seems plausible.
All parties agree that Ruiz has massively improved his defense over the last three years. He’s still young at 22 but I’m not convinced he’s ready to make a big contribution with the bat yet.
Which probably means he’ll hit a home run in his first at-bat, but that’s baseball for you.