The 2020 season was quite an exciting one for the Los Angeles Dodgers on many levels. Not only did they capture their first title since 1988 with a relatively young player corps, but they also saw the debut of one of their most anticipated prospects, catcher Keibert Ruiz.
Ruiz was called up when fellow catcher Will Smith was placed on the injured list with neck issues. The 22-year-old is currently ranked second on the Dodgers prospect list. Ruiz made a big impact rapidly as he homered in his first at-bat off Angels’ pitcher Julio Teheran. In eight at-bats the Venezuelan had two hits.
The Dodgers have some interesting decisions as far as catching goes. Smith, the 25-year-old, looks to be the everyday catcher. Behind him on the depth chart is Austin Barnes, who has become Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher. 19-year-old Prospect Diego Cartaya also lingers in the mix, although his estimated major league arrival isn’t until 2023.
Ruiz is still very young, so the most logical scenario would be to hold onto him until he’s ready. Smith, however, only debuted during the 2019 season, so he still has a couple of years more of team control. Indeed, the Dodgers have quite the selection of catchers to choose from.
As it has been rumored this offseason, the Dodgers may decide to pursue the likes of Nolan Arenado or Francisco Lindor in a trade. Surely, at the center of any trade package, would be Ruiz. Any trade package to land one of those superstars will take a hefty hit to any team’s farm system.
In recent years, the Dodgers have done a nice job holding onto their prospects while being asked to trade them for big names at the trade deadline.
Ruiz has been highly talked about since the Dodgers signed him as an international free agent in 2014. He is a switch-hitting catcher, and like a good number of switch hitters, he enjoys more success from the left side. He is pretty average behind the plate defensively but only threw out 23% of base stealers in his first three seasons.
Ruiz struggled in 2018 and posted some of his worst numbers offensively of his career. His average was .268 at Double-A. In 2019, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A and hit .261. He also struggled in 2019 with a couple of injuries that limited his number of at-bats.
He has, however, also posted great numbers. In 2017, he was recognized as the Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year and was also selected as an organizational all-star.
Both Smith and Ruiz came up through the farm system around the same time. Smith eventually was called up quicker and seems to be at the top of the totem pole.
The shortened season probably sped the Major League debut of Ruiz, and he couldn’t have made a bigger impact sooner. The Dodgers look to be patient with him so far not rushing anything.
Other than Gavin Lux, Ruiz figures to be the main piece for a potential blockbuster trade package, should the Dodgers decide to make a major upgrade this winter.
Personally, I hope the Dodgers wait it out for Ruiz, but we will see what happens.