The Lancaster Jethawks carried massive hype into the 2014 MiLB season. Baseball America crowned them the top team in the minors. USA Today ran a feature article about them. Their top prospects were ready to bloom. The team roared to an outstanding start on the backs of players such as Carlos Correa, Kyle Smith, Teoscar Hernandez, Rio Ruiz, Tony Kemp, and Josh Hader. Mark Appel had started off slowly, but looked to be coming back from injury in June. However, dominoes suddenly started falling. Kyle Smith was called up in the beginning of May. Carlos Correa broke his fibula. Tony Kemp was called up in late June. Mark Appel (to put it lightly) sucked. The Jethawks needed to start the second half of their season with the same consistency they had expressed in the first. Who better to lead them in that direction than Mr. Consistency, Rio Ruiz?
Last season as a 19-year-old in Quad Cities, Rio Ruiz consistently improved from month to month, the team eventually winning a championship. He repeatedly flashed the potential in high school of a 3rd baseman with the ability to consistently hit 20 homers and maintain a .280/.380/.500 slash line while playing above-average defense.
This past year in Lancaster, Ruiz maintained a .290 average for the first few months of the season before exploding in July and continuing it through August until he trailed off in the latter half of the month. Over a 38-game stretch from July 5th through August 20th, he failed to reach base in only two games. His plate discipline has improved immensely, with his BB/K ratio an excellent 0.90 (compared to last season's 0.54).
A knock on Ruiz only hit 11 home runs this past year, but he may be able to improve in this facet: a scouting report noted his swing to be level and linear without an uppercut, and we've all heard Alex Presley's tale of how the Astros asked him to make his swing more uppercut-like in a quest to reach higher power levels. Ruiz already makes very solid contact; an added uppercut should lift many more balls outside the park.
I must include the fact that Rio Ruiz is simply a very, very good hitter. His wOBA this past year was .368, nearing the "great" mark on Fangraphs' chart. At 2.8 years below the league average age, he still managed a wRC+ of 119. One might claim the Hangar effect influenced his year yet, oddly, he slashed .314/.417/.439 on the road versus .270/.355/.433 at home, with his slugging percentage the only number influenced by Lancaster's effects.
Everyone wants Rio to move right on up to Corpus Christi next year, but he may be held back by Colin Moran, who only had a little more than a month of seasoning at AA. Whatever the case may be, the Astros shouldn't hold back Ruiz for long, as he has nothing left to prove at A+. He added another championship this year, and he's hungry for another. He needs to keep the streak up. After all, he is Mr. Consistency.