Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Ruffin is a product of one of the elite college programs in the country, as a three-year player for Texas. An All-American selection, Ruffin was selected in the supplemental first round (48th overall) by the Tigers.
After Texas completed its run through the College World Series, the Tigers took their time negotiating and signing with Ruffin, inking him at the August signing deadline for a reported $1.15 million bonus.
The Tigers sent Ruffin to the Arizona Fall League for his unofficial pro debut, and he made ten appearances for Surprise. Over those appearances he pitched 9 1/3 innings allowing just three hits, but he did walk five. Ruffin managed to fan eight opposing hitters and held his ERA to 3.86 for the fall season.
There is always unfair talk of former Texas closer Huston Street when Ruffin is mentioned. While he has the same type of swagger and stuff that comes close to what Street offered, Ruffin doesn't sport the shutdown closer projection that Street always carried.
Ruffin has a good feel for pitching, thanks at least in part to his extensive exposure to the game at a young age. His father Bruce Ruffin was a long time big league veteran.
Ruffin's best pitch is his plus slider that could be a 70-grade pitch if he tightens up his consistency and command. Even without a significant step forward, most scouts grade it as a legit swing-and-miss 65-pitch that he can rely on in any count.
To complement his slider, Ruffin offers a fastball that consistently works at 90-92 mph and can reach 95 on occasion. In some shorter stints he will sit as high as 92-94 mph. He gets good life on his fastball and though he works from a low-3/4 arm angle, he still gets good plane on the pitch.
In college – when he worked as a starter – Ruffin would mix in a curveball and change-up that both graded as below-average. Though he may ultimately keep one of them in his back pocket, neither is likely to be something he throws very often as a pro.
Ruffin has a late inning mentality and he attacks hitters with his top two pitches. His command still needs some work, but he projects for average command once he cleans up the consistency of his mechanics.
Ruffin lacks the elite command or the elite fastball to be a true shutdown closer, and most scouts view him as a potentially solid setup man. He's almost at that ceiling already and should be ready for the big leagues quickly.
Did not appear in 2010.
Ruffin was durable throughout his college career, and his arm is still somewhat fresh having worked as a reliever during his final season on campus. The Tigers will still manage his workload in 2011, but there are no major concerns with injury down the line.
The Tigers have indicated they will start Ruffin at Double-A Erie in 2011, an aggressive assignment for a first-year college player. His polish, big game experience, and stuff give him a chance to succeed right away in spite of that.
While in Erie, he should see his fair share of save opportunities, even though that does not mesh with his long term projection.
The Tigers won't hesitate to give him the call to Detroit should a need arise and his performance in Double-A merit the move. Regardless of any big league opportunities in 2011, the organization expects him to seriously contend for an MLB job in spring training 2012.
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