Ruffin, a supplemental round pick in 2010 out of the University of Texas, has posted a sparkling 2.09 ERA over 39 games this season, split between Double-A Erie and Toledo. He is considered to have the best slider among Tigers’ prospects and that pitch has lead to high strikeout numbers (55 in 43.0 innings this year). Unfortunately, Ruffin’s strikeout numbers are mitigated somewhat by his propensity to hand out free passes; Ruffin has issued 20 walks this season as well (4.2/9).
Back in February, James Chipman gave us the skinny on Ruffin. In that piece, Chipman described Ruffin’s repertoire as follows:
"Despite being a late inning reliever Ruffin features four pitches. His fastball sits between 89-94 MPH. It features plus movement with a great deal of cut, sink and run. His slurve sits in the upper 70s and his curveball sits in the low 70s. Ruffin also features a change-up that lives in the low 80s."
Ruffin, the son of former big league reliever Bruce, has been compared to another Texas alum in Huston Street. Both throw from a low-3/4 arm slot and both get good movement on their pitches. Ruffin will need to find a way to harness all that movement in the Show, however, because big league hitter will be less likely to chase pitches off the plate than their minor league counterparts did.
Still, you have to like the Tigers bringing up a kid with the pedigree and track record that Ruffin has. You don’t strikeout 11.5 batters per nine innings by accident. Clearly Ruffin has some of the better stuff in the Tigers organization. The key with him, as with seemingly any young hurler, will be how quickly he adapts to the major league strike zone and whether or not he can harness his command.
If he can, Ruffin has a good shot to fill a gaping hole in Detroit’s bullpen and hopefully provide Jim Leyland another trusted arm. With the trade deadline less than a week away, this was an excellent time to bring Ruffin to the Show. If he works out, that will be one less move that Dave Dombrowski will have to make to shore up the roster for the stretch run. Given his success in his first season as a pro, there’s no reason to think that he can’t.