Slipping Through the Cracks

Every once in a while a talented baseball player slips through the cracks. More often than not, though, a sudden hot streak in the Majors can be attributed to a combination of good timing and luck. It can be a difficult job to ascertain what label applies in certain situations. The Toronto Blue Jays organization is currently charged with such a task with veteran minor league 1B/DH Randy Ruiz.

The 31-year-old Ruiz is a veteran of 11 minor league seasons. He was originally signed as a non-drafted amateur free agent by the Cincinnati Reds back in 1999. He has spent time in nine different organizations. Those three things normally do not add up to create a big-league caliber player. However, Ruiz has a career minor league triple-slash line of .304/.378/.530 in more than 4,000 at-bats. He also has a chance to be named the 2009 Pacific Coast League MVP after a season that included a line of .320/.392/.584 with 43 doubles, 25 homers and 106 RBI in 114 games.

After the surprise loss of outfielder Alex Rios on waivers to the White Sox, Ruiz was rewarded for his fine triple-A season with a promotion to the Majors, which was only the second of his career (He appeared in 22 games with Minnesota in 2008). The club bumped young designated hitter Adam Lind to left field and inserted Ruiz into the DH spot. With the season the Jays organization is having, there was little to lose with the experiment. So far, the gamble has paid off. Ruiz is one of the Jays’ hottest hitters and is currently hitting .348/.400/.630 with four homers and 10 runs scored in 12 games.

Perhaps to the detriment of his career, Ruiz spent seven of his 11 minor league seasons in National League organizations. He will never be confused for a gold glove first baseman and at 6’3” 235 lbs, left field is not an option. He is perfectly suited for the designated hitter role and his minor league numbers – a consistent ability to hit .280-.310 with a respectable on-base rate and plus power – suggest that he should have been in the Majors much sooner than the age of 31.

Unfortunately, players with Ruiz’ skill set and body type tend to age pretty quickly so he likely only has a couple more years left in the tank. And with that said, he’s probably not going to keep hitting .300 at the Major League level or play at an All Star level for an extended period of time, especially with minor league strikeout rates averaging out around 28% (and a career MLB BABIP over .400). At the very least, Ruiz could fill free agent Kevin Millar’s role in 2010 by providing pop off the bench and some leadership to a team in need of a clubhouse voice. He has the chance to be a nice story and a valuable contributor to an organization that could use some good news.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

8 Responses to “Slipping Through the Cracks”

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  1. Brett says:

    He’s getting ridiculously lucky. 12% line drive rate, .414 BABIP, swings at everything. I can’t see him being the Jays full time DH next year, at least I hope he isn’t. They already have enough guys that refuse to take a walk.

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    • Joe R says:

      Kind of funny to remember how some people were rallying around Cito Gaston because John Gibbons “relied on walking” too much (another “rah rah boo stat geeks” cry). Wonder where that’s gone.

      Obviously managing a team that has:
      Robbie Alomar
      Jeff Kent
      good version of Candy Maldonado
      Dave Winfield (he could still rake at 40)
      John Olerud
      Devon White
      David Wells
      Jack Morris
      David Cone

      a TON of baseball know-how.

      /end random cito gaston rant

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    • wobatus says:

      Well, no one expects him to OPS a thousand for a long stretch. But there. Alex Rios replaced with one aging slugger. Anymore Brian Giles and Alex Rios are god’s gift and Chone Figgins and Jason Kubel are overrated articles coming? You bet. Just teasing. Kinda. :)

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  2. TomG says:

    Somewhere Jesus Guzman nods in approval.

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  3. danny woytek says:

    Seems as though there are lots of these guys in NL organizations especially at the AAA level. Right now here in Portland there’s Valentino Pascucci who has been with 6 NL organizations at the AAA level (career .276/.396/.490). He is large 6′ 6” and plays a sort of lumbering 1st base for the Beavers. He’s obviously not gonna get a chance in the SD org. (Gonzalez, Blanks), and he’ll be 31 in November.

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  4. TD says:

    He also got busted hard for steroids a couple times, so I don’t think some teams were willing to take a chance on him.

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  5. danny woytek says:

    wasn’t aware of that td. makes more sense

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