Modesto, California —— Entering play on Saturday night, San Diego Padres right-handed pitching prospect Jose Ruiz is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA over 18 relief appearances for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm. A hard-throwing catcher-turned-reliever, Ruiz has 19 strikeouts and eight walks over 18.1 innings pitched this year, his first full season spent as a pitcher after spending five years as a catcher in the Padres’ organization, where he hit .203/.239/.249/.488 in 947 career minor league at-bats. I’ve seen several outing by the San Diego Padres’ pitching prospect this year; below is Baseball Census‘ full Jose Ruiz scouting report plus two videos.
Jose Ruiz Scouting Report — Video
Our first video of San Diego Padres pitcher Jose Ruiz comes from an April 17, 2017 game against the Inland Empire 66ers:
And here’s our second Jose Ruiz video, from a May 6, 2017 road outing against the Modesto Nuts:
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Jose Ruiz Scouting Report — GIFs
For a more specific look at his mechanics, here are a few Jose Ruiz baseball GIFs from each of those two outings:
Jose Ruiz Scouting Report — Notes
A former catcher with a big arm who the San Diego Padres began to convert to the mound in 2016, Jose Ruiz is now on the organization’s 40-man roster and could move quickly as an outside sleeper pick for a late-inning bullpen arm. There’s never been any doubt about his arm strength; radar guns across the California League light up when Ruiz enters, thanks to a working fastball at 94-97 mph (I’ve seen it top out as high as 99 mph in several outings). It’s a pretty straight pitch, but can occasionally take off arm-side and high when Ruiz is late to his release point—no doubt the product of a relative lack of experience on the mound.
Ruiz throws like a catcher, with short, relatively clean arm action, and there’s not much to his mechanics. As a power reliever, though, he need not be subtle about much. Add his 82-86 mph slider to that plus-plus fastball, and it’s no secret what the San Diego Padres’ prospect is trying to do during his outings. And while he’s not missing bats at as high a clip as you might expect (19 strikeouts in 18.1 innings pitched this year; 33 whiffs in 30.2 innings pitched for his career), he has the arm strength and attack mentality that should improve his whiff rate in time.
As you probably expect, Jose Ruiz’s command profile is fairly poor right now. His release points can get out of whack, and he’s more of a thrower than a pitcher, so there’s a good deal of extraneous movement in his delivery. His mechanics remind me a great deal of Houston Astros righty Rogelio Armenteros, though, throwing hard off a stiff front leg at release. Compare our Jose Ruiz videos above to this, from Armenteros taken last year while the righty was in the Cal League with Lancaster:
Armenteros gets exceptional downward plane on his fastball and shows a good, hard slider in addition to a deeper repertoire; I think Ruiz can turn into that same kind of thrower with a plus fastball that is difficult to barrel because of good downward plane. To do that, though, Ruiz must vastly improve his command profile and become more consistent in his release point. His slider, too, should improve with better mechanics and a more consistent release point, but even now, it’s had its moments and is clearly an intriguing off-speed pitch that’ll vastly help him in the coming years.
Jose Ruiz Scouting Report — Projection
The expectation, of course, is that Jose Ruiz should move relatively quickly out of Lake Elsinore, and his 40-man roster status is a testament to that. There’s not much subtlety to his repertoire, and even if opposing hitters know what’s coming, the 99 mph fastball/85 mph slider is a very tough combination to time, anyways. That said, it’s imperative the San Diego Padres’ prospect rapidly improves his control and command; he has a tendency to leave fastballs up in the zone, and he throws too many non-competitive pitches due to inconsistent mechanics, landing spots, and release points. He’s not always able to establish much more than his get-over fastball, and even High-A hitters can time those up when they see a few in a row.
Jose Ruiz’s catcher-to-pitcher transformation is a worthy one for the San Diego Padres to make. There aren’t many men who routinely touch 99 mph, and here we find one of them; he throws the hell out of the ball and isn’t afraid to attack hitters, and those traits will serve him well moving forward. If he can pick up just a few command and mechanical nuances of pitching in relief, he could conceivably wind up as an eighth-inning set-up man, or even a closer, should all things go well. Still just 22 years old with that kind of ceiling, he’s worth the low-risk gamble.
In this San Diego Padres / Jose Ruiz scouting report: