ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker has given Rio Ruiz his first career start at both the Major League and Triple-A levels this season. Along the way, Snitker has become one of the organization's many members who have gained a greater appreciation for Ruiz, who struggled with Double-A Mississippi last year and then successfully tackled the challenges presented to him this year.
"[Braves general manager John Coppolella] viewed Ruiz as one of our good young players that we wanted to push, and [Ruiz] responded," Snitker said. "He had a really solid year. Are there things he can work on? Absolutely. But he did a good job of staying competitive and holding his own at Triple-A."
After hitting .233 with five home runs and a .657 OPS with Mississippi in 2015, Ruiz, the Braves' No. 15 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, began this season as one of the youngest players in the Triple-A International League. The 22-year-old third baseman quickly eased concerns as he batted .310 and compiled a .842 OPS in April, while playing for a Gwinnett club that was managed by Snitker until Fredi Gonzalez was dismissed as Atlanta's manager on May 17.
Ruiz persevered as he batted .198 with a .593 OPS in May. He started turning things around in June and really turned some heads as he hit four home runs and produced an .883 OPS in August. He exited the regular season with a .271 batting average, 10 home runs and a .756 OPS.
After helping Gwinnett reach the championship round of the International League, Ruiz was promoted to Atlanta on Sept. 17. He recorded his first hit -- a triple -- during a pinch-hit appearance in Wednesday's win over the Phillies and then highlighted the first start of his career on Thursday with a two-run single during the decisive eighth inning against Philadelphia.
While Adonis Garcia has seemingly done enough to maintain his role as Atlanta's primary third baseman next year, Ruiz has at least put himself in position for consideration.
"Whoever the manager is, I'd think he'd have to go in with the sights that he's the Opening Day third baseman until somebody takes it away from him," Snitker said. "Rio needs to come in with the mindset that, 'I'm going to come in and win a job,' and if he doesn't he'll be a young kid that goes back to Triple-A. It wouldn't be the end of the world. It would probably be good for him."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.