Esteury Ruiz

How A's GM Forst believes Ruiz can improve upon electric rookie season

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  • Programming note: Watch Brodie Brazil's exclusive interview with Oakland Athletics general manager David Forst in "A's Season Review," which will debut Thursday at 10:30 p.m., after "Sharks Postgame Live," on NBC Sports California.

Esteury Ruiz reached 67 stolen bases during the Athletics' 2023 MLB season, surpassing the American League rookie record previously set by Kenny Lofton.

If Ruiz didn’t miss most of July with a shoulder injury, that number easily could have been closer to 80.

“No doubt,” A’s general manager David Forst confirmed to NBC Sports California. “It’s a really exciting skill. Something that can change the game in a way that very few other players in the big leagues can do.”

Ruiz was part of the A's trade that sent Sean Murphy to the Atlanta Braves, but the outfielder is easily forgotten because he came from the Milwaukee Brewers as part of that three-team deal.

Once Ruiz returned from the injured list in August, the speedster also became more of a platoon player instead of re-assuming his everyday role in center field.

“He had his ups and downs in terms of offensive performance and ultimately ended up playing more in the corner than center field once Lawrence [Butler] was here,” Forst said. “So there are things about his game he needs to work on, but it is a game-changing ability that is really valuable.”

The A’s would love more steals from Ruiz in 2024, and to do that they’d love to see him get on base more -- specifically via the walk. In 497 plate appearances this past season, Ruiz earned just 20 free passes.

“You expect a certain amount of production out of a leadoff hitter on base, and you know, he wasn't hitting for power, he wasn't taking walks," Forst said. "Those are sort of the basic things.”

The A’s still can see Ruiz playing center field, knowing his conversion from the days of shortstop are still in progress.

“You put a guy like that in center field strictly because he's fast, but there's a lot of nuance to the position,” Forst said. “And like you said, he came up as an infielder. Speed isn't going to make up for everything. So whether it's positioning or jumps, these are things that ideally you don't have to learn at the major league level.”

Ruiz truly is a coveted piece of the A’s future, using his rare athleticism at a time when pitch clocks are promoting stolen bases across the league.

And while Rickey Henderson comparisons are understandable from the casual A’s fans, those on the very inside are thrilled with Esteury’s potential for the next few years.

“I can't wait to see what he becomes,” said Forst. 

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