Rio Ruiz is an interesting player because there are three things he does really well: football, pitching, and most importantly, hitting. He's athletic with a plus arm at 3rd base, and has quick reflexes. He projects to be a plus defender for these reasons, although he isn't necessarily a fast runner. He's also more interesting because he has less time to dedicate himself to just one sport, often leaving scouts impressed in workouts and tournaments, but curious and interested for more.
Ruiz is a left-handed hitter with good bat speed and makes solid contact. His senior season was cut short due to a life-threatening injury where he had to have a blood clot removed in his neck that was blocking blood flow to a bicep in his arm. But before his injury, he had 6 hits in 27 plate appearances with 2 doubles and 1 homer, 3 walks and 1 strikeout. It's obviously a small sample size, but in his 2011 season, he hit .455 with 3 homers, 2 triples, 14 doubles, and 46 hits total in 125 plate appearances. He drew 19 walks and struck out 9 times. His swing is quick and snappy, almost flawless with not a lot to complain about and he should be able to develop into a power-hitting 3rd baseman.
His defense at 3rd base is already in existence. If his bat doesn't develop further, he would make a good backup infielder, with perhaps the floor of a guy like Matt Downs, a utility player versatile at multiple positions but without the bat to stick as a starter. His floor in my opinion is higher than other high school players because of his for-sure defense and because there are a lot less question marks about his swing than there are complements and praise.
Projected Draft Round
Jonathan Mayo has him ranked #72 overall, (2nd round)
Baseball America's recent list has him ranked at #98, which would be in the 3rd round.
ESPN has him ranked 22nd out of all draft-eligible high school athletes
Ruiz is expected to go somewhere between the supplementary 1st round and 3rd round, though I doubt he ever makes it to the 3rd round. If he makes it to pick #61 in the 2nd round, the Astros should definitely take him as he would fill a nice gap in the farm system and has excellent potential. Due to his lack of playing time in front of scouts, he's perhaps ranked lower than that of what he would be if he had consistent playing time, which would mean his pick at #61 would be a steal. If there's any indication from Jeff Luhnow in his decision to pull off the Jed Lowrie trade, it's that Luhnow likes to take advantage of marketing inefficiencies by taking in players that have been undervalued in one way or another. I'm not sure if this is what Luhnow had in mind, but it makes sense to try to get the most bang for the buck.
Will he sign?
The signability of Ruiz is questionable. It will take a good sum of money to try to waft him away from committing to going to USC and convincing his parents that he doesn't need a college degree. He has signed a letter of intent with USC, where this statement was released: "He and his family are very committed to the college process and earning a degree at USC". The recomended slot value for pick #41 is $1,258,700 and the slot value for slot #61 is $844,100 which both seem like a lot of money in my opinion, and enough for me to want to sign if I were as athletic and talented as Ruiz. The bottom line is that Ruiz will most likely make a career as an athlete and getting a degree in something unrelated would put a hamper on his development.
Bibliography after the jump
Ruiz has a strong balance between his left handed hitting ability, his power potential, his defensive athleticism and his arm strength, which he shows both defensively and on the mound. Chavez' profile was almost identical at the same point in his career. Ruiz hit .435-3-35 as a high school junior, but to watch his swing and bat speed it’s easy to see far more power in his future. He has a loose, fast swing with ideal extension and lift at contact and the ball comes off the barrel very hard when squared up. Ruiz grades out as a slightly below average runner on the professional scouting scale, but will have plus range at third base because of his quick reflexes and athletic balance.
Rio Ruiz, I am just not sold on offensively. I know I’m in the minority there, but as a lefty against the righty Giolito, he was out of his league, and that’s a red flag for me as far as the pro side goes. I’ve seen a lot of him over the past three years. I think his hands are just average and his backside drags. The BPs always look great, but I can’t remember a moment where it translated into a game and really sold me. I did see him get around a 90-mph fastball for a hard single late in the game, but as a corner with slow infield actions, there needs to be more pop than this.
He has good bat speed and sprayed hard line drives in the gaps during batting practice. He has great strength in his hands and forearms, which translates in the box.
He's from SoCal. He hits left-handed. It's not a real shock Ruiz gets Eric Chavez comps. Unfortunately for Ruiz, he became even more similar to the oft-injured Chavez in March when he had to undergo a procedure to break up a blood clot near his clavicle by his right shoulder. Ruiz has the tools to be an everyday Major League third baseman. He has a terrific left-handed swing, a short stroke with good bat speed. He makes consistent hard contact and there's more than enough loft and leverage for him to have good power at the next level. He's a solid, instinctive defender at third, with good lateral movement and a strong arm. Ruiz doesn't run well, but given his other skills, that doesn't matter so much. He doesn't need to run if he's going to develop into a run-producing third baseman as a professional. That potential should put him in many beginning-of-the-Draft conversations.