Getting To Know: Rio Ruiz: With Freddie Freeman Sidelined, Can He Seize Opportunity?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

With Freddie Freeman lost for the foreseeable future and Adonis Garcia also on the DL, there is playing time available at the corner spots in Atlanta.  The team signed James Loney to a minor league deal, and it likely won’t be long before he arrives, but that shouldn’t mean that the recently recalled Rio Ruiz won’t get an opportunity.  For a rebuilding team it makes sense to see what the former fourth round draft pick can do.

Is there a chance he makes an impact?  Let’s take a quick look and try to figure it out:

Rotoprofessor Rankings:
Preseason – Not Ranked

Hits – Left-Handed

Age – 22 (turns 23 on May 22)

Thoughts:
Ruiz has never shown much power as he’s worked his way up through the minors, including hitting 10 HR in 465 AB at Triple-A in ’16.  Nothing has changed thus far in ’17, at least on the surface, as with 4 HR over 141 AB.  However he’s added 12 doubles and 1 triple, leading to a .447 SLG, and he’s seen his fly ball rate rise significantly:

  • 2016 – 27.1%
  • 2017 – 38.4%

That could indicate a further development in his power.  As MLB.com stated prior to the season:

“Knowing how your swing works is first and foremost, and Ruiz can check off that box. Adding size and strength? That’s happening. Power is often the last thing to come. If it does, Ruiz still has the chance to fit the profile of an everyday third baseman in the big leagues.”

In the early going his strikeout rate is up (26.5%), though it’s possible that the potential increase in his power is leading to a few more swings and misses.  A drop in his walks is far more concerning (6.0%), though it is a relatively small sample size.  A player who has consistently put up double digit walk rates, don’t be surprised to see the walks increase even in the Majors.

Riuz has spent his entire career at 3B in the minors, spanning 522 games.  That said it’s not unthinkable that they send him across the diamond to get some time at first base in Freeman’s absence.  Even if it’s at third base (though there have been concerns about his ability there in the past), the opportunity is there as the team could also conceivably move Garcia to 1B upon his return.

If you need help at the corner in deeper formats, the intrigue of increased power and the opportunity to play makes Ruiz worth considering.  While his numbers may never blow you away, the power is developing and he’s always shown the makeup of a .265-.280ish type hitter.

Current Grade – C
Upside Grade – B

Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

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