Being that these past two weeks have been a powerful display of ineptitude and sorrow on the major league diamond, let’s focus on some positivity down on the farm for the Dodgers.
19-year-old backstop, Keibert Ruiz recently took home the Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year Award. While still a few years away from the bigs, Ruiz is already starting to turn some heads much like Alex Verdugo and Julio Urias. Keibert Ruiz is forcing his way through the organization at such a blistering pace that he routinely plays against much older competition. The age difference clearly isn’t an issue so far.
The young man out of Venezuela has racked up an eye opening .330/.372/.461 slash through the first three years of his minor league career. Home runs may never be a feature he’s prominently known for, but overall offensive catchers like this don’t come around every day. He was good for a .316/.361/.452 slash across a full minor league season this year.
His defensive and game calling abilities are also well regarded. His savvy and demeanor behind the plate displays maturity and ability beyond his years. Quakes Manager Drew Saylor recently spoke on the young switch hitting backstop saying:
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"“Being 18 in the California League – I think the league average is almost 23 years old right now – to even just think about that, a high school senior going up against a possible gray-shirt senior in college, that’s a huge jump. Just the poise, just the feel that he has a calmness about him, there’s not a lot of moments that go by that have sped up.”"
Another important feature of Keibert Ruiz’s game is his ability to save the Dodgers money down the road. Current Dodger catcher Yasmani Grandal becomes a free agent at the end of the 2018 season. The front office certainly loves Grandal as he’s seemingly always good for 20 homers and impeccable pitch framing skills.
However, he’s always been inconsistent offensively, pass balls have always been an issue, and his on base skills this year have been poor. This current front office doesn’t usually go around throwing tons of money at former PED users who are marching into their 30’s.
The breakout of Austin Barnes and the emergence of Ruiz could give the Dodgers enough upside to say goodbye to Grandal. Keibert Ruiz would still be relatively young after Grandal’s deal expires. However, Ruiz’s switch hitting paired with Barnes’s natural versatility could make a highly intriguing catching combination down the road.
The Dodgers need to save money for what figures to be an extremely expensive offseason after the 2018 campaign. Clayton Kershaw is expected to opt out of his deal, and numerous other jewels on the market will be open for bidding such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The Dodgers seemingly will at least be able to save money in the catching department, with a flurry of organizational catching depth standing behind Ruiz. However, Ruiz has the tools and potential to eventually become the next crown jewel of the Dodger’s Minor League system.