Rays Prospects

Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Jose Ruiz Leads Licey To Win

By Robbie Knopf

It takes a nice game to go from not being mentioned a single time in these Winter Leagues recaps do being the headliner, but Jose Ruiz did exactly that. Admittedly, the interesting story of the Cuban defector also played a role.

Arizona Fall League: Peoria Javelinas 5, Scottsdale Scorpions 2                               

This was not too memorable of a game for the four Tampa Bay Rays prospects involved. Patrick Leonard went 0 for 3 with a walk, Kes Carter went 0 for 4, and Zach Cooper allowed a run in an inning of work, walking 3. At least Colton Reavis pitched relatively well, working around a hit and a walk to toss a scoreless inning. He has delivered three straight scoreless appearances.

Dominican Winter League: Tigres del Licey 4, Toros del Este 1

A couple of players who spent a lone season in the Rays organization helped lead the Tigres to this win. The first was Ramon Ortiz, who started and went 5 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. The other was first baseman Jose Ruiz, who went 1 for 3 with a 2-run homer than turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.

What’s Ruiz’s story? He defected from Cuba and signed with the Rays in June of 2010 at age 25. The Rays signed him to a fascinating deal, paying him $20,000 per month the rest of the season and then holding an option on him for the following year. If the option was picked up, the Rays would have had Ruiz for $4.5 million over the next four years.

Ruiz made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, tearing it up as expected, and then played decently at Double-A Montgomery. In 106 plate appearances, he hit to a .272/.358/.348 line. However, the Rays did not see enough power from Ruiz to exercise his option, and while they did try to retain him, the Texas Rangers swooped in and signed him.

Ruiz put up decent numbers between Double-A and Triple-A for the Rangers in 2011, hitting to a .270/.339/.444 line with 15 home runs, but they were also unimpressed and he end up in Independent Ball. Ruiz has stayed there the last three years, playing well in two of three, and he hopes that a strong DWL performance could finally get him back in affiliated ball.

Jose Ruiz cannot be described as a particularly notable Rays minor leaguer, but it would not be surprising for the team to sign another Cuban defector to a contract like what he received.