The Oakland A's finished as runners up in the Edwin Encarnacion sweepstakes, but they didn't come up empty-handed this holiday season. The A's announced the signing of right-hander Norge Ruiz to a minor league contract on Friday. According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, the deal is worth $2 million.
Ruiz, who will turn 23 this spring, has plenty of experience pitching on a big stage internationally as a member of the Cuban National Team. He was one of the key contributors to the Cuban team that won the Caribbean World Series in 2015, as they upset the favored Venezuelan squad. Ruiz pitched three seasons in the Cuban professional league -- the Serie Nacional -- and posted a 2.55 ERA in 60 games. He was mostly a starter in Cuba and is expected to continue that role in the US. He made three starts for the Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League earlier this off-season. In 14.1 innings, Ruiz posted a 3.77 ERA and an 11:5 K:BB.
http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/1683361-a-s-go-big-with-july-2n... MLB.com ranked Ruiz as their third-best international free agent prospect. He joins a high-profile A's 2016 international signing class that includes countryman Lazarito. Ruiz is the fourth player the A's have given a bonus to worth more than $1 million in that class. The A's are already over the bonus pool allotment and will pay a 100% penalty on Ruiz's contract, according to BaseballAmerica's Ben Badler. That means the Ruiz contract costs the A's $4 million.
Ruiz is described by Badler (his scouting report can be found here) as a groundball pitcher with a fastball that sits 89-92 and can touch 94. Ruiz has a deep repertoire of pitches that includes a plus change-up and a promising slider. He also mixes in a cutter and a split-fingered fastball. According to MLB.com, Ruiz mixes in different arm angles, as well.
Both MLB.com and Badler speak highly of Ruiz's competitive nature and his ability to pitch above his stuff. As a member of the Cuban national team during the summer of 2012, Ruiz dominated a Team USA squad that included then-college stars Trea Turner, Michael Conforto, Alex Bregman and Kyle Schwarber, among others.
Ruiz joins an increasingly deep pool of starting pitching talent in the A's system. He is likely to start his professional career in Double-A and could reach Triple-A by mid-season if he performs well. The A's player development staff will once again have its work cut out for it in putting together starting rotations in Nashville and Midland for 2017. Ruiz joins a group that includes Daniel Gossett, Grant Holmes, Corey Walter, Paul Blackburn, Heath Fillmyer, Brett Graves, James Naile, Kyle Friedrichs, Ben Bracewell, Chris Jensen and Casey Meisner that will be vying -- along with the A's minor league free agent signings (such as Felix Doubront, Chris Smith, Brandon Mann and Cesar Valdez) and 40-man roster pitchers with big league experience that don't make the A's Opening Day roster -- for spots in the Triple-A and Double-A rotations this spring.