Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 35, Rio Ruiz: -0.2 rWAR
When the Baltimore Orioles designated a struggling Rio Ruiz for assignment, the Colorado Rockies swooped in to pick him up as much needed farm system depth. An infielder originally drafted by the Astros in 2012 out of high school, he was one of their top 20 prospects in 2012 (no. 8) and 2013 (no. 14) before dropping off the list. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, where he popped into their prospect rankings in 2015 (no. 12) and 2016 (no. 17).
Ruiz made his debut with Atlanta late in 2016, but only played 72 total games with 195 plate appearances with the Braves from 2016-2018. He was waived and claimed by the Orioles, where he played 213 games with 718 plate appearances. He never quite lived up to his fourth-round draft status, but earned playing time in Baltimore with sneaky pop to his bat and solid plate discipline, drawing plenty of walks with limited strikeouts.
A struggling Ruiz—slashing just .167/.250/.300 through 32 games to start the 2021 season—was waived by Baltimore on May 18th, where the Rockies quickly snatched him up and assigned him to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. He quickly became a fan favorite in Albuquerque, and he deserved it with excellent offensive numbers and solid defense at multiple positions. Ruiz spent time at all three bases and even played a little bit of left field, showing off the Rockies’ coveted positional versatility. He slashed a quality .304/.361/.496 with 20 doubles, a triple, seven home runs, and 28 RBI through total games with the Isotopes.
Ruiz made his Rockies debut on July 27th to start a short stint with the big league team. From July 27th through August 1st, he started two games—one at first base and one at third—but had just nine total plate appearances. He hit .143/.333/.143, tallying just one hit but walking twice compared to three strikeouts. He was optioned on August 5th to make room for the activations of Antonio Senzatela and Yency Almonte.
The Rockies recalled Ruiz again on August 23rd, and he stayed with the team through the remainder of the season. Unfortunately, he didn’t get much more playing time and struggled to impress with limited at-bats. Working mostly as a pinch hitter, Ruiz appeared in 25 more games and started just one. He had just 31 total plate appearances in a little over a month, where he slashed just .179/.194/.214. with four singles and a double. He notched four RBI, two of which came on sacrifice flies, and struck out six times to just one walk.
Ruiz has struggled to gain holding in the major leagues despite solid minor league production, but he’s also played just 315 games over a six-year career. While it was frustrating to again see Ruiz get very little playing time—struggling when he did play—the former highly rated prospect is just 27-years-old and will likely join the Rockies at spring training as part of their 40-man roster.