Rio Ruiz looks to be Orioles third baseman again in 2020 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Rio Ruiz looks to be Orioles third baseman again in 2020

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

It’s well known that the Orioles don’t have much infield depth at the higher levels in the minor leagues. As a result, it’s probably safe to assume that Rio Ruiz will play a major role again with the club at third base.

Ruiz was claimed on waivers from the Atlanta Braves. In 127 games, he hit .232 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs in 2019. He had a .682 OPS.

He was responsible for perhaps the most exciting moment of last season, when his game-ending home run gave the Orioles an 8-7 win over the Houston Astros on August 11, a day after a disheartening 23-2 loss.

The 25-year-old Ruiz became a father last season and enjoyed his first extended season with the Orioles. He was sent down to the minors briefly while the Orioles added Jace Peterson as a utility player.

The stint with Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie coincided with his son’s birth.

During the offseason, the Orioles have added two players who can play third base, Dilson Herrera, who was signed to a minor league contract, and switch-hitting Richard Urena, who was claimed on waivers from Toronto earlier this month.

Urena has only played third base five times in his brief major league career. Herrera has just two big league starts there. Stevie Wilkerson, another switch-hitter who’ll try to make the team as a utility player, has four major league starts at third.

Unlike Herrera, Ruiz is a left-handed hitter but hit better against left-handed pitchers in limited action in 2019.

Ruiz hit .228 against right-handers and .250 in 68 at-bats against lefties. Eleven of his 12 home runs came against right-handers.

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The closest third baseman the Orioles have in the minor leagues is Rylan Bannon, who was part of the Manny Machado trade in July 2018.

Bannon hit .317 in 20 games for Norfolk after batting .255 for Bowie. The 23-year-old, who’s listed at 5 feet 7, isn’t considered a high-caliber major league prospect. Bannon made 12 errors in 69 games at third base for the Baysox and five more in his 20 games at third for the Tides.

So, for now, it looks as if it’s Ruiz’s job at third.

“He’s more of a line drive, gap-to-gap hitter with some pop,” a major league scout said.

One of Ruiz’s strengths is his ability to hit with runners in scoring position, the scout said. Ruiz hit .306 last season with runners in scoring position.

“Did a good job going inside out with two strikes the other way, which I thought was a good thing,” the scout said. “At best, inconsistent on defense. He doesn’t throw that well from third base … He’s a fringy, average guy defensively … He’s a below average bat with occasional power.”

Unless Ruiz steps up his performance in 2020, he’s likely to be considered a placeholder until the Orioles can get a better third baseman.

The Orioles have many more priorities, especially finding more and better starting pitching. With the team they have now, Ruiz fits in well and there’s the possibility that he will improve in 2020.

Minor League signings: The Orioles signed catcher Taylor Davis and right-handed pitcher Brady Rodgers to minor league contracts on Thursday.

Davis, a 30-year-old right-handed hitter, hit .222 with a home run and seven RBIs in 20 games for the Chicago Cubs over the last three seasons.

He did not throw out any of the 13 runners who tried to steal against him.

Davis is best known for a viral video that catches him always looking into the camera.

Rodgers was a third-round pick in the 2012 draft by the Houston Astros, the first year when Orioles general manager Mike Elias was the Astros’ scouting director.

He had a 15.53 ERA in eight games with the Astros in 2016 and 2019.

There’s no word if the signings include invitations to major league camp.

SABR meeting: The annual meeting of the Baltimore/Babe Ruth Chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) will be held on Sunday from 10 A.M.-4 P.M. at the Peabody Heights Brewery, 401 East 30th Street in Baltimore.

I’ll be one of the guest speakers and will talk about the outlook for the 2020 Orioles.

Registration is $35 and includes lunch and drinks.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. jimcarter

    January 24, 2020 at 7:32 am

    A player best known for looking at something. Yes!!

  2. CalsPals

    January 24, 2020 at 7:43 am

    Remember hearing lots of banging trash cans in that first blow out by the Astros, heard they replaced them w/rubber trash cans the next night…do we really need another older Davis that can’t hit, I think it’s funny we keep signing guys that Elias & Hyde we’re familiar with while with other teams…MAYBE one them them will catch lightning in a bottle…go O’s…

  3. Orial

    January 24, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Rich I tabbed Ruiz as my “breakout player of the Year” in one of your earlier columns so we’ll see. Seems we’ve been hearing that line–“no IF prospects at upper level” for too long. Finished reading(per your recomendation) “When The Crowd Didn’t Roar” and yes saw where you were mentioned in it. Very poignant/disturbing. I don’t expect you to opine at this moment but chance you could entail your feelings about that day and going forward? I realize it’s a very political/social issue so not sure what kind of restraints you’d be under.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 24, 2020 at 8:56 am

      Orial, any restraints on my commentary are self-imposed. I think my feelings about the affair were adequately explained in the book. I keep away from political issues in the blog, but if you follow me on Twitter, I made a pointed reference to crime in the area surrounding the stadium yesterday.

      • Birdman

        January 24, 2020 at 5:01 pm

        Rich, I think you are probably correct that the area immediately surrounding the stadium isn’t significantly more dangerous than it was 10 or 20 years ago. But perceptions matter, and I think that many folks in the suburbs (where most of the Orioles attendance originates) do have the perception that downtown Baltimore is a more dangerous place than it used to be.

        To some extent, this is a “chicken and the egg” problem for the Orioles. As the product on the field has deteriorated, attendance has dropped, and as attendance drops people feel even more uneasy going downtown. The phrase “safety in numbers” applies here. If you are among 30,000 or 40,000 people driving in, parking, and walking to and from the stadium for an Orioles game (or 70,000 for a Ravens game), most fans feel more secure (especially at night) than when the crowd is 10,000.

  4. Bman

    January 24, 2020 at 9:01 am

    I don’t get the lack of depth moves for 3B. Maybe they’re planning Nunez there too? Ruiz is okay, maybe he’ll have a breakout year, or maybe it will be like last year again. He hasn’t shown that much yet.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 24, 2020 at 9:10 am

      I think third base is far down the priority list, Bman.

    • whiterose

      January 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      They need a head count for Sunday SABR event. So dont just show up without notifying Dick O’Keefe.
      I can give contact info if anyone needs it.

  5. Raymo

    January 24, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    The SABR meeting sounds like fun. I presume that the sentiment of your speech can be summed up in one word: dismal.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 24, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      I look forward to seeing you there, Raymo.

  6. dlgruber1

    January 24, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    The O’s keep signing veteran roster fillers. In your estimation, when do you believe they’ll become competitive again? Also, is there any early word on who they’re looking at in 1st round with the #2 pick this year?

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 24, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      I think they should show signs of improvement by 2021 and take another step by 2022.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 24, 2020 at 6:05 pm

      My guess, dl, is that they’ll go for a college pitcher this time. Lots of time to mull that over.

  7. NormOs

    January 24, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Ruiz back at Third so that means the “Rebuild” hasn’t started yet, right? “Show signs of improvement by 2021/22. Does that mean “only” 100 losses, that would be a big improvement.

    • WorldlyView

      January 25, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      If I am correct that the O’s will comfortably set a major league record this year for losses in a season, a mere 100 losses in 2021 would indeed, in relative terms, be a “big improvement.” And it is quite possible that the collective ERA for starting pitchers this year will soar to a new all-time high.

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