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Elephant Rumblings: Keys to a 2024 Ruiz breakout

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Wednesday, Athletics Nation!

“There are some things Esty did really well ... But I think there are clearly some things he can work on.”

A’s general manager David Forst was quoted thusly in reference to A’s speedy outfielder Esteury Ruiz by Martin Gallegos at MLB.com yesterday.

Ruiz made waves last season with his phenomenal base stealing abilities, setting a new AL rookie record with 67 steals. He was even part of the AL Rookie of the Year discussion at times ahead of the All-Star break, but faded out of the picture as the season wore on and Esteury took on an increasingly one-dimensional appearance. Yes, he’s exciting once he gets on base, but the 24-year-old underwhelmed when he was standing in the batter’s box, posting a wRC+ of just 86 in 2023.

In the outfield, Ruiz made some spectacular plays but didn’t track balls consistently enough to take full advantage of his athleticism.

Gallegos noted that Ruiz started 81 of the A’s first 88 games in center field and frequently batted in the leadoff spot. But after returning from a shoulder injury on August 5, he was blocked in center field by the arrival of top prospect Lawrence Butler and only started 31 of the last 47 games he played.

Esteury’s Statcast numbers were abysmal, placing him in the first percentile in hard-hit balls and exit velocity. But per A’s manager Mark Kotsay, efforts are already underway to improve Ruiz’s swing mechanics to unlock more power and bat speed.

The A’s roster is currently crowded with outfielders, but if Ruiz can up his on-base game in 2024, he’ll have plenty of chances to improve his defense—and he’s got the legs to make up a lot of ground in that area.

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