Rancho Cucamonga, California —— Entering play on Wednesday night, Oakland Athletics right-handed pitching prospect Norge Ruiz is 5-2 with a 4.37 ERA over 13 starts this year with multiple affiliates in the Athletics’ organization, including the California League‘s Stockton Ports, with 42 strikeouts against 15 walks and 61 hits over 57.2 innings pitched. I observed the 23-year-old Cuban in his August 15 start on the road against Rancho Cucamonga; below is Baseball Census‘ full Norge Ruiz scouting report, including video.
Norge Ruiz Scouting Report — Video
Our video of Oakland Athletics right-handed pitching prospect Norge Ruiz shows his game pitches across that August 15 start against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, where he gave up eight earned runs across just three innings of work, earning the loss:
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Norge Ruiz Scouting Report — Notes
Norge Ruiz sat 87-91 mph with his fastball early in Tuesday night’s start, and what he lacks in above-average velocity, he makes up for in natural arm-side run and sink when the ball is down. He has enough natural sink on his fastball to sit low-middle and let it work to most hitters, but the “low” part is critical; when his fastball got even just a few inches up in the zone, it flattened out, and led to him getting hit pretty hard on Tuesday. Without plus velocity to back that up, then, command is imperative for him to succeed with the pitch. He pairs the fastball with a slider (73-76 mph) and a changeup (79-81 mph), and although I didn’t see it in my time behind the plate the other night, he reportedly also throws a split-fingered fastball, as well.
Neither the slider nor the changeup grade out as ‘plus’ pitches to me, but each is average and the sum total of them, along with a moving fastball, give Ruiz enough to survive as a starting pitcher, at least for the time being. He went to each off-speed pitch very early in the game, and previous reports on him seem to be correct in this regard: the Oakland Athletics prospect will throw virtually any pitch, at any time, in any count.
His mechanics were a bit out of whack on Tuesday, and he struggled to find a consistent release point, landing point, and follow through. He’ll slow down some on off-speed pitches, too, further complicating his mechanical issues and possibly tipping hitters. Obviously, this all could’ve been a one-day problem from a bad outing in Rancho, and he’s otherwise impeccable through his delivery, but it’s certainly something worth noting.
Norge Ruiz Scouting Report — Projection
Assuming this wasn’t his best day (a safe bet considering he was tagged for eight earned runs in three innings of work), I can imagine a far sharper Norge Ruiz eventually turning into a mid-rotation (#3 or #4) starter in another couple years’ time. He’s age-appropriate for the Cal League right now, and his Cuban background may push him slightly quicker than other players of his age (and especially of his experience in pro ball), but he’s far from a frontline starter or ‘ace’ in waiting. That said, I think there’s value here to be actualized as a rotation arm, with enough stuff and more than enough natural movement on everything to make him a sinker-baller who could find some success. With his size (Ruiz is listed at 6’0”, 185 lbs., and he’s likely shorter than that) I could see durability concerns creeping in to play, but he’s fairly well-built despite being short and there’s no real reason yet for me to think he couldn’t handle an every-fifth-day workload.
Even assuming Tuesday was a one-off bad outing, most immediately the Oakland Athletics must perfect consistency with Norge Ruiz’s mechanics, delivery, and command. He’s low-key filthy in his own way when he lives at the knees with all three pitches, and late life gives him the repertoire to be a worm-killer. However, anything left up gets pretty flat pretty quickly—and that will spell trouble in the upper minors, let alone the big leagues.