Thursday, May 29, 2014

Catching Up with Lancaster JetHawks 3B Rio Ruiz

I first talked to Astros third baseman and 2012 4th round draft pick Rio Ruiz in August 2012 when he was playing with the Greeneville Astros in his first season and I had the opportunity to watch him again last year in Quad Cities. Over the weekend, I watched Ruiz at work in the desert in High A Lancaster, California, and decided that it was time to check in with him again.

Rio Ruiz - May 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

When I brought up Ruiz' name in talking with Lancaster Manager Rodney Linares and Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson, the first reaction of each man was to break into a smile. Rio is just so charismatic and full of life that one cannot help but like him. He is also young, having just turned 20 last week and both Linares and Robinson urged against rushing Ruiz. He may not be on the fastest track, but he is nevertheless making excellent progress.

After struggling out of the gate in 2013, Ruiz has been one of the most consistent bats in the JetHawks lineup in 2014. His defense, one of the biggest concerns coming in to the season, has been coming along nicely as well. According to Linares, "He went through a stretch of maybe 20 games where he was making a highlight reel play every night." And indeed that was the case in one of the games I witnessed over the weekend as Ruiz made a beautiful leaping catch of a scorched line drive ball.

Robinson enjoys working with Ruiz and complemented him on his work ethic. He's working with Rio on getting him to open the field for himself a bit more, "Trying to get him to work middle to other way a little more because they throw him away a lot. He takes those pitches on the outside corner that he can drive in the gap." Robinson calls Rio an incredible talent and praises the way he refrains from getting overly excited about anything.

Linares says of Ruiz, "Rio has a chance to be as good as he wants to be. He's got legit bat speed. Rio has a chance to be a power hitting corner left-handed hitter. There's not a lot of those around."

Let's hear from the man himself ~

Ruiz is definitely young like many on this Lancaster team, but he has impressed me with his steady progress these last two seasons. He may not be on the same fast track as Carlos Correa, but I don't think he'll be too far behind. And I guarantee that the Houston fans will love getting to know him.

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