The Braves have a pleasant dilemma at third base because of Rio Ruiz’s impressive play while Adonis Garcia has been on the DL. The 23-year old rookie has compiled eleven hits in thirteen games, including his first major-league home-run and five RBIs. This is Ruiz’s second stint in the big leagues, as he appeared in five games last year for the Braves. Most of those came in pinch hit situations, so these thirteen games have been his first real opportunity to get his feet wet in the majors. It may be a small sample size, but Rio Ruiz is ready to stay.
Garcia has been rehabbing while the Braves have been out west facing the Giants and the Angels and is set to return for the team’s next series against the Reds. The 2017 season has not gotten off to the start he would have liked. His .237 batting average is thirty-six points off the mark he hit last season, and his slugging percentage and OPS have both seen significant decreases. Though these numbers are only over thirty-four games, and Garcia has proven to be a streaky hitter since he entered the majors two years ago. His 162-game averages in those two years are a .268 batting average with 20 home-runs, which would make him one of the Braves most productive hitters. If Garcia can remain healthy going forward, there is no reason to think he cannot get hot once again to where the Braves will not want to sit him.
When asked about how the situation would play out going forward, Manager Brain Snitker said, “Rio’s here and he’s doing pretty good. Right now (the thinking is) probably split it up a little bit, maybe try to get a really productive position out of both of them maybe.” The Braves are going to want Ruiz to get as many at-bats as possible, so if he is up, he is going to see a significant amount of playing time. The great thing about this situation is they bat from opposite sides of the plate. It would be easy to make Ruiz more of the everyday third baseman, while Garcia faces left-handers and serves as the team’s best bench bat.
A platoon of this sort would make since considering Ruiz’s stats against lefties in AAA. He only hit .211, with an OBP of .244 and a slugging percentage of .316. Compare that to his stats versus right-handers, where he hit .282, with a .327 OBP and a slugging percentage of .495. Garcia also fares much better versus left-handers than right-handers. He has hit .308 this season with a .976 OPS against left-handed pitching.
This situation is going to play itself out in the coming weeks and primarily depends on how Ruiz continues to transition in the majors. He has had a nice stint so far, but if he begins to struggle, the Braves will not hesitate to send him back to AAA for more at-bats. Hopefully, Ruiz’s recent success is more of a sign of things to come and he can become the everyday third baseman for Atlanta. Garcia has been a nice option for a 30-year old prospect, and will have a place in this league for years to come, but this is Ruiz’s job to lose now. The Braves are planning on him to be a building block for their future, and the future is starting now.