Friday, June 4, 2010

Jose Julio Ruiz, Rays 1B of the Future?

In a surprise turn of events, the Tampa Bay Rays added another former Cuban National Team member in Jorge Julio Ruiz. The Rays had been long interested in Ruiz, despite the claims of his price-tag reaching the double-digits in millions and other interested parties being the LA Angels of Anaheim and the Boston Red Sox amongst others. One thing was known, early on, that the Rays had put in a bid of at least 2 million dollars and then the signing of fellow Cuban nationalist Leslie Anderson(Stephes) made fans believe that the interested in Ruiz was no more.

Reports then came out in February of a dispute between Ruiz and his former agent, who may have hindered his options for signing. Ruiz changed representation and many thought that this change would've had Ruiz signed and in a ST camp by mid-march. Reports, also, during this time were that many felt Ruiz's conditioning and attitude were less-than-desirable attributes and not worthy of the 10+ MIL that he was said to be asking for. February became March, March became April and so on with Ruiz rumors being few and far-between and by May, non-existent.

Rays fans were all surprised when reports came out of the El Nuevo Herald that Ruiz signed a contract which has him making 20 K a month until November 15th, when an option in which his contract is upgraded to a 4 year major league deal worth 4 MIL. Considering the details known so far, 4.1 MIL total sounds far better than the 10+ MIL his former agent said Ruiz had been asking for.

Not all reports regarding Ruiz and his body were negative ones, though. While the reports that Ruiz "bulked up" in his last year for his Cuban league team to hit for power(when he hit 21 doubles and 11 HRs), his position and size(6'2" 192 lbs) didn't kill his speed. In that last 90 game season, Ruiz finished 1st in his league with 32 stolen bases in 41 attempts. Put that into context of his potential defensive play, speed usually indications athleticism and that would probably negate the chances of Ruiz being a "statue" at 1B.

While many Rays fans may still think Anderson may be the "future 1B of the Rays", JJ Ruiz profiles to be more logical choice with his combination of speed, size, patience and potential for power. There's been comparisons between Ruiz and David Ortiz, due to the combination of power and patience. Also, Ruiz's body-frame limits him to a 1B/DH role and Anderson's ability to play the OF which gives the Rays an extra option if Ruiz's ability/ceiling cements him at 1st. With fellow countrymen Sergio Espinosa and the aforementioned Anderson playing in Port Charlotte, it's believed Ruiz's first assignment will be there once the visa application process is completed. Despite claims that Ruiz is an MLB-ready bat, he still has the american assimilation process and getting back into "playing shape" again.

I'm not saying Ruiz is going to pan out or be an upgrade/mirror-image of Carlos Pena, however the Rays signing multiple players with the ability to play 1B(among other positions) will cushion the loss of a Pena. This also gives Rays leverage in contract negotiations, in case Pena wants to stay and Boras tries to ask for more money than the amount that the Rays want to spend on him. Potentially, the loss of Pena could net the Rays an additional compensation pick in the 1st or 2nd round. So in a nutshell, the Rays bettered themselves now and possibly later by signing Jose Julio Ruiz.
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