Image courtesy of Flickr user _Topher_He has all the tools to be a deadly Designated Hitter, yet I can't help but think that Randy Ruiz is going to spend the better part of the 2010 season in Las Vegas instead of in Toronto where he rightfully belongs.
This is same Randy Ruiz who was the 2009 Pacific League Coast MVP. The same Randy Ruiz who posted a 1.019 OPS in 130 plate appearances with the Blue Jays this past season. The same Randy Ruiz who raked in Winter Leagues with 7 home runs and 27 RBI's.
This is the very same Randy Ruiz who is going to have to fight tooth and nail to make the Blue Jays Opening Day roster.
Ruiz has proven himself to this organization time and time again, and has done nothing but exceed expectations, whether it be in the minor leagues or his brief (albeit impressive) stint in the big leagues. No matter how well he hits, the Blue Jays just can't quite commit to giving Randy Ruiz a spot on their roster.
Knowing that he needed to step up his game physically, Ruiz is arguably in the best shape of his career, having lost 30 pounds this off season and continues to impress with his Puerto Rico squad in the Caribbean Series.
Earlier in January, Drew from Ghostrunner on First wrote an excellent piece on Randy Ruiz' uncanny ability to knock just about any pitch out of the park. Some would argue that he's a one trick pony and only built to hit home runs, but if that's the case, then he's the equivalent of Seabiscuit for hitting home runs.
It's fully understandable that no roster position should ever be automatically be handed to players. Especially with young talent like Travis Snider, it should be reiterated that they should have to earn their spot on the team and not feel like they are obligated to make the roster out of Spring Training. The same goes for a career journeyman like Randy Ruiz - you have to earn your stripes on the team.
Despite all that, it feels like no matter what Randy Ruiz does or how well he plays, he is probably going to get overlooked once again. Unless the first baseman position suddenly opens up or if the Jays commit to making Adam Lind the full time left fielder, Ruiz could be banished to Triple A once again.
At 32 years old, obviously Ruiz does not fit into the long term building plans for the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Alex Anthopoulos has a very valuable chess piece in Ruiz - if he convinces Cito to give Ruiz more playing time, that could significantly boost Ruiz' trade value, and down the road he could fetch a couple of prospects. The only way for Randy Ruiz to become attractive to any other team though, is if he actually gets a chance to play.
If Ruiz were to be one of the 12 or 13 hitters to break camp, who is to say that he would even receive a fair amount of playing time anyway? Cito left a perfectly healthy Randy Ruiz on the bench for six straight games back in September 2009, so I could definitely see the manager giving away his at bats to other players once again.
So what do you think - will Randy Ruiz ever be free from the clutches of Las Vegas?