FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Agustin Ruiz is one of the myriad talented players the Padres signed internationally in 2016. Ruiz spent two years in the Arizona League hitting .272/.367/.427 in 284 plate appearances. Last year, he received a brief two-game call-up to short-season Tri-City and then Low-A Fort Wayne at the end of the year. A big second half propelled Ruiz to a top-10 finish for slugging and OPS in the AZL in 2018.
At the end of Spring Training, we included Ruiz as one of the sleeper hitting prospects in the system, writing:
Originally signed out of Southern Mexico in 2016, Ruiz came stateside immediately in 2017, but his physical immaturity and a nagging shoulder injury kept him from producing much. He returned to Peoria last spring more developed and jumped his OPS by 260 points. He was a beast over the last month and wound up with three doubles in a four-game cameo in Fort Wayne at the end of the year. The left-handed hitter, who can cover center but already fits better in the corners and will likely continue to slow as he grows, should get plenty of opportunities to do more of the same in 2019. He turns 20 after the season.
The Padres continued their approach of making aggressive assignments to full-season ball by sending Ruiz out to Fort Wayne to open 2019. While the Mexican native has not lit the Midwest League on fire, he has held his own. His 251/.327/.3350 line through Friday’s game is right at league average production. As we wrote in our pre-season preview of the TinCaps, Ruiz is going to need to keep lowering his strikeout rate to tap into the power that the left-handed-hitting 6-foot-2, 215-pound outfielder is capable off.
As with most young players, he has been riding the ups-and-downs of streaks. He hit .354/.424/.430 in April and .294/.361/.482 in June, but posted a frigid .420 OPS in May and just .579 in July. The ability and talent offensively are there, it’s just a question – as it is for many players – of getting to it more consistently.
Defensively, he has played some center in the past, but this year all of his time has been on the corners, primarily in right field.
“The most impressive part about Agustin’s game this year has been his ability to make consistently hard contact,” said John Nolan, the TinCaps play-by-play announcer. “On top of that, Agustin has great makeup. He’s coachable, a hard worker, a good teammate, volunteers in the community—just the total package as a person.”
MadFriars: How did you choose to sign with the San Diego Padres?
Augustin Ruiz: I started playing baseball because of my dad. First, I signed with a team in Mexico, I didn’t even think it was possible for me to sign with a team in the U.S., but there were some people around me that helped to make it happen.
You seem to have an excellent idea of the strike zone. Is that something you were born with or developed?
Augustin Ruiz: I think it’s more of just how I was taught to play the game. The more you play, the better idea you have of what you want to hit.
What part of your game do you want to see improve the most?
Augustin Ruiz: I want to hit with more power and make more contact. I’ve never really been a power hitter, so I need to learn how to drive the inside fastball.
You’re a natural righthander. How did you get to be a left-handed hitter?
Augustin Ruiz: All of my family hit right-handed except for my mom. So my mother is responsible for me becoming a left-handed hitter.