Esteury Ruiz: The Next Big Thing?

(Esteury Ruiz) Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: AP Photo

If there’s one thing that Padres’ minor leaguer Esteury Ruiz can do, it, undoubtedly, is hit.

The young Ruiz, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Kansas City Royals in July 2015 for $100,000 as a 16-year-old, has carried a .331 career batting line. While it’s across just over 400 at-bats in his young career, and that’s obviously bound to regress, it is still impressive nonetheless as an 18-year-old.

Ruiz originally played in the Dominican Summer League in 2016 for Kansas City’s affiliate, where he officially got his first taste of professional baseball. In 56 games (217 ABs), Ruiz carried an impressive slash line of .313/.378/.512 to go with 13 stolen bases.

The infielder didn’t start the 2017 season at a full-season affiliate and was part of a deadline trade, where he was sent to the Padres with Travis Wood and Matt Strahm¬†in exchange for Ryan Buchter, Brandon Maurer, and Trevor Cahill. Ruiz immediately joined the back of the Padres’ Top 30 prospects list at the number 30 position. He did that as an 18-year-old as well.

Esteury Ruiz was promoted to the Arizona League, where he played for the AZL Padres and raked once again, hitting for a remarkable .350/.395/.602 slash line, as well as leading the AZL in a variety of offensive categories. We could be potentially looking at a solid MLB-caliber talent if things continue to go well.

As we look ahead to 2018 and beyond (I know, we Padres fans are always looking ahead), I would imagine that Ruiz will start the season in either Tri-City or Fort Wayne.

Whether or not Ruiz is deemed ready for full-season ball will be the determining factor as to where he starts the year. I would love for the Padres to throw him into the fire at Fort Wayne to see what Ruiz has as he gets his first taste of a season lasting longer than 50 games. After all, he will turn 19 this season, and that is generally around the time when guys start playing full-season ball. Heck, the Padres put Fernando Tatis Jr. in Double-A at 18 and Gabriel Arias in Fort Wayne at 17.

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Besides, a combination of Ruiz and Arias up the middle could have implications on what the infield might look like in 2021. However, I could also see him starting the season at Tri-City to get his feet wet, but given the nature of A.J. Preller and the Padres’ farm system directors, they’ve proven to promote players aggressively if they seem capable. Ruiz is the kind of guy that could skyrocket up through the system, and while I don’t think he’ll reach Double-A in 2018 like Tatis did last year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s in High-A Lake Elsinore by the end of the season, especially if he’s still hitting .300+ on the year.

So, Padres fans, if you don’t yet know the name “Esteury Ruiz,” you should add him to your vocabulary. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but this guy could be the 2018 Padres’ “Prospect of the Year,” much like Tatis was last year. He has that type of upside.

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