The Dodgers have been fortunate enough to possess a number of ultra-talented young stars throughout their system in recent years. Just as franchise cornerstones like Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger have recently graduated, LA may have found yet another prized prospect to soon lead their system.
Much of the talk so far in Spring Training (besides the hot start from Matt Kemp) has been about the Dodger’s ridiculous catching depth. Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal, either of whom would certainly be the unquestioned starter on most other teams, are both vying for starting duties. Then there is Kyle Farmer, a versatile young receiver and sometimes infielder, who figures to get opportunities here and there as the team’s 3rd string catcher. And don’t forget Will Smith, a strong defender with developing offensive skills. He has yet to make his major league debut but appears headed towards a solid Major League Career.
Grandal, possessing the most power of any catcher in LA’s system, doesn’t figure to be a Dodger beyond this season with his contract set to expire. Most would then assume the multi-talented Austin Barnes would be a safe bet to officially take over starting duties. (if Grandal departs) He came on in a big way last season, producing a .895 OPS to go along with solid grades as a catcher. He also received most of the starts last postseason. However, Barnes’s tenure as the unquestioned starting catcher may not last too long. Not with the emergence of the Dodger’s Keibert Ruiz.
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The 19-year-old left his home in Venezuela at just 16, to pursue a dream of playing in the major leagues. The dream looks to become a reality sooner rather than later as he was just graded the #3 prospect in the Dodger system and 3rd catching prospect overall by MLB.com. He was always known to be a quality defender with nice speed for a catcher. His offensive production, however, has turned heads, and it’s shot him up the organization at a furious rate. He probably can’t be counted on as a major power threat, but could very well turn into a player capable of producing around 15 homers while hitting over .300.
Some notes from his prospect ranking on MLB.com include:
"A switch-hitter, Ruiz has advanced feel for the barrel and a line-drive approach. Ruiz runs better than most catchers and moves well behind the plate. He has soft hands and receives the ball better than most young backstops."
As an eighteen-year-old, Ruiz posted an absurd .374/.412/.527 slash in 2016. He didn’t disappoint last year either, ranking 3rd among all minor league backstops in average, hitting .316. Much like prized prospects Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger before him in previous Springs, Keibert Ruiz impresses just about everybody this Spring. He has only received nine AB’s but already has six hits.
Around this time next year, Ruiz could very well join the ranks of Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and currently Walker Buehler, and be crowned king of the organization’s minor league system. Travis Barbary, the Dodger catching coordinator and close friend to Ruiz said:“I just got a sense this is a special kid who’s got a chance to move quickly through the system.” At just 19, with a career .330 average in the minors and receiving skills far beyond his years, I’d say he’s probably right.