It wasn’t long ago that teammates Brett Harper and Randy Ruiz were close to identical production-wise for the Last Vegas 51s. The Jays brought up Ruiz in September and outright released Harper. Was this the right decision?
2 seasons ago the Blue Jays were fielding calls to “Free Randy Ruiz” by the Twitterati. With Travis Snider struggling, Jays fans were eager to inject the lineup with a potent bat from the AAA farm team, the Las Vegas 51s. In April, Randy Ruiz was making a name for himself by tearing the cover off the ball. So much so that we sat up and took notice.
With the beginning of May, Brett Harper stepped up his game as Travis Snider continued to flounder. We were conflicted as to which player to bring up, and as of May sided with Harper and his .986 OPS vs. right-handed pitchers. In June, it was clearly Harper who should have been inserted into the lineup.
Ruiz began to heat up in July and surged ahead of his comrade Harper. Ruiz was called up and on August 11th played his first game for the Blue Jays. Playing in his hometown of the Bronx, the former Yankees farmhand went deep in his first two games with the Jays. Ruiz, as we all know, was named PCL MVP and played 33 games for the Blue Jays, posting an impressive 1.019 OPS. Harper was released by the Jays and latched on with the AAA Albuqueque Isotopes, the AAA farm team of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He thrived there, posting an OPS a hair under 1.000.
2010 comes along and it is a much different story. Ruiz, hailed as the next Babe Ruth for the Blue Jays, plays 13 sporadic games while posting a .150 average and slugging .275. He was released and signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan.
Harper began the season with Sacramento, and like Ruiz, struggled in only 14 games before being released himself. Again, like Ruiz, he headed to Japan and signed a contract with the Yokohama Bay Stars.
Harper was a little bit of a stud and posted these numbers:
Ruiz got off to somewhat of a bad start and ended up posting these numbers:
(for those of you without widescreen monitors, Harper hit .316 while Ruiz batted .266)
What jumps out at me is that Harper only has 6 doubles! He is all about the HR, base hit, or walk.
Ruiz on the other hand, strikes out almost half of the time he walks to the plate. He doesn’t hit it out of the park as much as Harper, but hits a few more doubles. He still makes a lot of unproductive outs via the strikeout.
At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter that the Jays picked Ruiz over Harper. These two are both baseball bit players, yet it is interesting to see how two players with very similar career trajectories and PCL pedrigree perform in the Japanese league. Why did Harper flourish while Ruiz floundered? My best guess is that Harper can handle a breaking ball better than Ruiz. I’ve seen Ruiz flail away at big league breaking balls and the NPB is a breaking-ball-heavy league. That being said, I have never seen a Harper at bat. More importantly, what does this say about Japanese baseball? It is something to think about.
For now, you can catch them both playing in Winter Leagues. Harper is suiting up for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican Winter League, while Ruiz is a member of the Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League.
Brett Harper gets robbed and tips his hat to the Japanese rightfielder:
It happens to him yet again. This play is truly unbelievable.
A Brett Harper opposite-field HR:
Harper RBI single:
Ruiz, known as “Louise” in Japan, hits a HR at 0:25, 0:33, 1:31, 1:47, 2:19, 4:02, & 4:10. As you can see, he loves to crush the fastball. Great soundtrack as well.
Also, how about that #7? Can he mash or what?! His name is Takeshi Yamasaki and he hit 28HR in 2010, but 39 the year before. He has 391 career.
Ruiz’s team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, have put together a highlight reel: