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.
6 thoughts on “What Lies Ahead for Keibert Ruiz?”
Based on the fact that not only does Kershaw prefer pitching to Barnes but apparently so does Buehler, I don’t see Austin going anywhere anytime soon, especially since his hitting improved last season and he had a very good playoff performance.
I still view Smith as the number one catcher so where does that leave Ruiz? I suppose if the DH comes back he could get some time there, or maybe eventually at first base, but those opportunities both seem somewhat limited. As Jose mentioned, we have Cartaya in the system as well, and many consider him our best catching prospect of all of them. Also, we are apparently going to sign still another very good young Venezuelan catcher, Jesus Galiz, when international signings open up again in January.
All in all, it may be best to send Ruiz out in a trade for something valuable. Yes, we could include him as part of a package for Arenado or Lindor, but we would only have a one year hold on Lindor and there is the Seager-Lindor shortstop thing. Arenado may not be worth that huge contract that comes along with him, even if he agrees to push back or eliminate his opt out.
We have Pollock for two more guaranteed years plus an option. Maybe AF can find a really good outfield prospect who is about a year or two away and could ultimately take Pollock’s spot in left. Our system is very short on high end outfielders at this point, at least anyone who is only a year or two from contributing. Send Ruiz out to a team who really needs catching now in exchange for that very good outfield prospect who could be our left fielder in 2023.
I think is a change of position coming
Wondering what’s ahead for Keibert Ruiz is a good problem to have.
While he is a very valuable trade chip, I don’t see Dodgers using him in a trade for Arenado or Lindor. Timing is all wrong for Lindor, Dodgers don’t want to give up a big prospect package then find themselves trying to resign free-agents Lindor and Seager after the 2021 season. Also why give up a big prospect package for the right to pay Arenado $35M/yr for his age 30 through 35 seasons, this after a very pedestrian 2020 season. We all know his stats away from Coors field have never been great. Dodgers are already the favorites to repeat next year without either of these guys. Add in all the 2021 financial uncertainty with the virus, just can’t see Dodgers/anyone trading multiple blue chip prospects for high priced talent (except maybe the Mets).
Young, cheap, blue chip prospects with many years of future control have long been the the most valuable asset in MLB. I think they are even more valuable today. If the Dodgers trade Ruiz, it should be for something like Blake Snell who still has a few years of control on a very team friendly salary. Or as Jeff D suggested for another prospect that better fills a need.
I also see a potential position change coming to accommodate Ruiz or Cartaya. Looks like Dodgers could use a right-handed hitting infielder or two, plus a left-handed hitting outfielder to replace, Turner, Hernandez and Pederson. Trying Will Smith at third makes a lot of sense to me, it’s a position he played in the minors, how well I don’t know.
Whatever happens, I’m sure the master, Friedman, will maximize Ruiz’s value to the Dodgers, one way or another.
From what I’ve read, I think Cartaya is considered the best defensive catcher of the group, so trying Smith at third or even in left field might be worth a shot. He’s a hard worker and good athlete so I’m guessing he could adapt to either position. Of course Cartaya is two or three years away so the immediate question is how Ruiz factors into all of this. Somehow I still expect him to be traded, but if so, it will be in a package for something very good and for someone controllable for more than one year (so no Lindor or Bryant).
Not sure what’s in Ruiz’s future, but I don’t think he’ll be part of an Arenado trade. I’ve been thinking more about Arenado, and I don’t think there is any way that the Rockies trade him to the Dodgers. Why would they trade their best player to their chief rival, plus what it would do to their fan base. It was nice to dream about for a week.
In a vacuum, trading Arenado to us makes little sense for the Rox; however, he holds all the cards with a total no trade contract. If they hang on to him for next season and he then opts out, they get absolutely nothing. They aren’t going to compete next season so it makes little sense to hang on to him, in spite of how angry their fans would be to see him wind up here.
If the Dodgers are willing to absorb his entire contract, they might be able to get away with sending the Rockies some good prospects who aren’t quite ready for the big show yet so the Rockies management can claim they got great future players. I’m thinking something like Kody Hoese (whom they wouldn’t have need for any longer), Mitchell White (they can always use pitching) and Jacob Amaya (a good shortstop/2nd base prospect). I’m sure there are other names who could be substituted for those three but I’m thinking that getting Hoese would be very helpful for them.
That said, I’m really not sure I’m all that anxious to get Arenado because of what that does to the future chances of keeping all of our guys that we constantly talk about here (Seager, Buehler, Belli, etc.). I’ll leave that to Andrew to figure out.