Ben Ruta is an outfielder in the Yankees organization that is slowly making a name for himself to be kept a close eye on.
Yankees prospect Ben Ruta isn’t a blue-chip prospect that fans everywhere know of just yet, but he made a name for himself in the Yankees organization last year and is a player that Yankees fans should be keeping an eye on to make an impact on the team in coming years.
The New Jersey native attended Wagner College and was drafted by the Yankees in the 30th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He was drafted as a left fielder but played five different positions in 2018 as he hit .300 with eight home runs, 53 RBI’s, 134 hits and 37 stolen bases across 83 games in High-A ball and 36 games in Double-A.
Ruta has appeared in five Spring Training games so far, and although he’s only gotten three at-bats, he did get a chance to showcase his trademark speed by recording a stolen base. He’s also gotten the opportunity to interact with players from all levels of the Yankees organization and improve his game by learning from them.
Ruta was kind enough to answer some questions of mine in an interview recently. Here’s what he had to say about his college career, how he found out he was drafted, his experience at Spring Training and more:
Max Mannis: You were born in New Jersey, were you a Yankees fan growing up?
Ben Ruta: Yes, I grew up a huge Yankees fan and went to many games.
Mannis: Did you ever try to model your game after any specific player/players?
Ruta: When I was a kid I always modeled my game after Derek Jeter. I would stay outside and practice his famous jump throw every day.
Mannis: What was your experience like playing college ball?
Ruta: I had a great experience playing for Wagner College in Staten Island. Not many people believed in me out of high school, but head coach Jim Carone took a chance on me and allowed me to grow into my body and be myself as a player. I can’t say enough good things about him, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
Mannis: Was it difficult to get scouted out of Wagner, given that it’s a rather small school?
Ruta: I always wanted to get drafted, but tried not to focus on paying attention to scouts at the games. I just focused on playing as well as I could in hopes a team could see some value and potential in drafting me. If you play well and have something to offer the scouts will start coming, whether you are at D1/2 or 3.
Mannis: How did you find out you were drafted?
Ruta: I was waiting for my Cape Cod league game in Cotuit to start and my phone started blowing up, and then I received a call from Yankees scout Cesar Presbott to break the good news.
Mannis: What surprised you most in your first few years playing in the Yankees organization?
Ruta: The biggest surprise was how truly talented all the players are. You realize pretty quickly that you need to elevate your game if you want to stand out and keep moving up.
Mannis: In 2018, you played all three outfield positions as well as some first base and even a few innings at second base. Do you see yourself cementing yourself at one position down the road, or do you think you’ll always be versatile and play all around the field?
Ruta: I want to continue to work on being as versatile as possible. The more positions you can play, the more value you can add to a team.
Mannis: You got a taste of playing in AA last season when Trenton had a number of outfielders on the DL, was it difficult to go back down to High-A when they returned?
Ruta: No, it was not difficult, because I was happy with how I played in AA and did not feel like I wasted the opportunity. The only hard part was leaving my teammates in AA.
Mannis: You played with major leaguers like Greg Bird and Brandon Drury as they rehabbed with the Thunder last year, did you talk with them at all about their experiences playing in the major leagues?
Ruta: Yes, I talked to both of them about many things and I continue to talk to Greg in Spring Training. He’s very gracious with answering questions and has a lot of knowledge that helps a great deal. We talk about things like routines and strategies against different types of pitchers.
Mannis: Is there a teammate of yours who you think isn’t getting enough attention as a prospect but has a chance to become a really good major league player?
Ruta: Brandon Wagner.
Mannis: Was it hard seeing guys you played with like Justus Sheffield and Dom Thompson-Williams get traded this offseason?
Ruta: It’s always bittersweet to see a friend go, but it’s also nice to see them get a great opportunity to realize a dream with another organization.
Mannis: What has your experience been like at Spring Training so far?
Ruta: It’s been great so far because I’ve got the chance to experience a lot of the big league games. Being able to take the field with the major leaguers and watch them go throughout their day and routine is really valuable information. I’ve learned more this spring than any other spring because of this.
Mannis: What has it been like to be around talent from all levels of the Yankees organization at Spring Training?
Ruta: Regardless of age and where everyone is from, the one constant is everyone loves to compete and play hard. There are people from all corners of the earth and the assembly of talent is incredible. It’s fun to compete with all our guys and interact with the different cultures.
Mannis: What are your expectations for yourself in 2019?
Ruta: To continue to build on the year I had last year. I made some big strides in all facets of my game and gained a lot of knowledge that is going to help me throughout the year. I want to continue to focus on playing hard, flying around the field and being a problem on the bases for the other team to defend. I don’t have specific numbers I want to reach but if I focus on the right things, then the numbers will be there come September.
Mannis: What do you want Yankees fans to know about you?
Ruta: I want them to know that I used to be one of them and I understand the expectations they all have and the history of the team. There is nothing like playing for the Yankees and winning a championship for the Yankees. I will play hard and wear my heart on my sleeve for them.