Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Playing for one of the elite college baseball programs in the country, the Tigers second pick in the supplemental round, Chance Ruffin, has had plenty of time in front of scouts and baseball officials.
Starting with his freshman season at Texas, Ruffin has racked up national awards. After posting a 1.93 ERA on the season (2.06 in Big 12 play), Ruffin was named a First Team Freshman All-American by both Baseball America and the NCBWA. He was also tabbed as a Third Team All-American, and Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
His success continued in 2009 as he compiled a 10-2 record for the ‘Horns with a 3.32 ERA and nearly a strikeout per innings (115 in 124.2 innings). Following another very good season, this time Ruffin was named to the All-Big 12 First Team, and the ACBA All-Midwest Regional Team.
With his junior season still going as the Longhorns continue another deep NCAA run, Ruffin could still improve his stock and rake in more awards this time around. Working as the team's closer this year, Ruffin finished with a 6-1 record with 14 saves and a 0.73 ERA. He walked only 18 hitters in 61 2/3 innings, while fanning an amazing 96.
Ruffin has baseball in his blood, as his father Bruce played 12 years in the big leagues, after being selected in the second round of the draft; also out of Texas.
Though some scouts aren't a fan of Ruffin's relatively small stature, he still has impressive stuff and has been durable throughout his college career. Working in short stints out of the bullpen, his fastball has been up to 95 mph, and sits at 91-93 in nearly every outing. He gets some late life on his heater, making it tough for opposing hitters to square up and drive.
His best pitch is a legit plus big league slider that sits in the low-80s with devastating movement. He commands the slider well to both sides of the plate, and he is comfortable burying it in the dirt as a chase pitch.
Ruffin also mixes in a curveball and a change-up at times. He primarily uses the curveball against left-handed hitters, working it to the outer half of the plate.
With a four-pitch mix that could improve with more innings – particularly his curveball and change-up – Ruffin could probably start as a pro, but he likely maxes out as a #3 or #4 starter in the end. In the bullpen, his stuff plays better and he could move quickly as a lights out late inning arm.
Because of both his stuff and his school affiliation, Ruffin frequently draws comparisons to former Texas closer Huston Street, and he actually has a chance to approach his success down the line.
Ruffin is an intense competitor who doesn't back down in any situation. He is an intelligent pitcher and a good athlete, who fields his position well and understands his role as a defender.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG COL
Ruffin has been durable throughout his collegiate career, but some scouts worry that Texas head coach Augie Gaurido's propensity to abuse pitchers may eventually catch up with him. He hasn't shown any signs of wearing down yet, so the Tigers will likely let his performance determine when and how much he pitches.
The earliest Ruffin will sign is after Texas completes what they hope is a long run to Omaha for the College World Series. Even if he signs quickly, he is likely to get a few weeks before he makes his pro debut.
The Tigers haven't been shy about being aggressive with college relievers, and he could be pushed to West Michigan or Lakeland very quickly. As a reliever, his track to the big leagues could be as quick as late 2011, and he could be in the big leagues to stay by Opening Day 2012.
If Ruffin continues to demonstrate his current levels of durability, he could be more valuable as a 7th or 8th inning reliever that can throw multiple innings or throw on back-to-back nights, rather than being confined to a one-inning closer's role.