Hampered by a broken finger at the end of last season, Keibert Ruiz was unable to join a handful of other prospects the Dodgers brought up to the big league roster. However, the switch-hitting native of Venezuela’s 2020 campaign could be the year he finally makes his long-awaited MLB debut.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Los Angeles farm is loaded with backstops. Aside from Ruiz and current big leaguer Will Smith, other catchers who have already made noise include Connor Wong, Diego Cartaya and Hunter Feduccia, among several others. With Smith and Ruiz atop the organization’s totem pole, some pundits believe the Dodgers might consider dealing one of the aforementioned names to strengthen their team at the 2020 summer trade deadline.
Regardless, if the 21-year-old Ruiz proves he’s ready to consistently produce at the big league level, it could signal the end of days for Austin Barnes, who currently finds himself out of contract options.
For those not familiar with Ruiz—which may be a select few considering how long he has dominated the organization’s prospect rankings—the Dodgers signed him as a free agent for a mere $140,000 right on his 16th birthday in July of 2014. After getting his feet wet in the Dominican Summer League the following year, he was quickly ushered to Ogden in the Pioneer League in 2016, where he slashed an impressive .354/.393/.503 over 206 plate appearances at only 17 years of age.
In 2017, he combined to hit .316 with 58 runs scored, 23 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 51 RBI in 101 games for High-A Great Lakes and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He began 2017 by slashing .317/372/.423 in 63 games for the Loons and was promoted to the Quakes on July 9. With Rancho, Ruiz hit .315 with six homers, seven doubles, 27 RBI and 24 runs scored in 38 games.
Even more impressive is that Ruiz was named the organization’s 2017 Minor League Player of the Year, preceding Gavin Lux, who captured the award for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
In 2018, Ruiz slashed .268/.328/.401 with 12 long balls and 47 RBI in 101 games for Double-A Tulsa in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Texas League. Before his injury last season, he hit .261/.331/..347 in 85 games between Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Over his career, Ruiz has fared slightly better as a left-handed hitter against righty pitching, which could theoretically improve his ultimate standing with the parent club. In 2019, though, he was almost even across the board, hitting .261 against right-handed pitching while batting .260 against southpaws.
According to FanGraphs, Ruiz’s catching mechanics are near perfect, and some scouts are certain he has the ability to competently handle duties behind the dish at the major league level right now. However, his arm ranks about average when compared to the MLB standard, but that could certainly change as he matures. Lifetime in the minors at Single-A and higher, he has thrown out 43 of 195 potential base-stealers. Still, his feet are amazingly quick, and all his throws consistently show outstanding accuracy.
With the bat, his strongest skill is his ability to make contact with the ball, which is made evident by his career 11.6% strikeout rate—an exceptional number for a prospect of his age. He hasn’t shown any overwhelming power yet, but he does have a bit of pull power from the left side, and it may be an aspect of his game that blossoms as he approaches his mid-twenties.
MLB Pipeline currently ranks Ruiz as the third best prospect in the entire organization and the seventh best catching prospect in all of baseball.
Since Ruiz is already a member of the club’s 40-man roster, there should be few administrative complications surrounding a big league promotion when the organization feels he’s ready.