Dodgers give Keibert Ruiz short chance in complicated catching picture
By Adam Weinrib
The Los Angeles Dodgers possess a top-five young catcher in baseball in Will Smith, one of the game’s most well-suited backups in Austin Barnes, and potentially the top prospect behind the dish in all of baseball in Keibert Ruiz.
It’s a shame the third name listed above can only crack the roster when an extra body is needed for a doubleheader, but that remains the situation in which we find ourselves.
After a Monday rainout, the Dodgers will face off against the Cubs twice on Tuesday.
While the pitching should be the story (Kershaw! Hendricks!), we’re once again left distracted by the roster’s 26th man.
Ruiz joined the team for Tuesday’s road games off the Taxi Squad, and he’ll provide a potent contact bat off the bench in the late innings of either contest.
Is this really the best use of his skills, though? And is there any sort of long-term inroad for him to contribute more to this roster?
The Dodgers have added Keibert Ruiz. But for how long?
During a lost season for minor-league contributors, Ruiz was able to make a two-game big-league cameo in 2020, socking his first career home run in Anaheim. He’s proven plenty at the lower levels, batting .261 with six homers in 85 games of his most recent minor-league season, and hitting .316 in a cameo at Triple-A at the tail end of the campaign.
Every time his name gets thrown around in the Dodgers-verse, though, it’s always as a backup plan. He’s the last man on the roster for potentially as short a trip as two games. He’s a potential second-string player if Barnes leaves in free agency. Is that really all Los Angeles wants out of their extremely talented tippy-top prospect?
This Dodgers team has done a phenomenal job developing talent over and over again, at all levels of the farm and at all positions.
If you pressed them, however, we expect they’d say they didn’t anticipate Smith advancing so quickly or becoming quite so dominant.
Ruiz doesn’t have the pedigree or skills to be a permanent backup, and doesn’t have a clear path to playing time on this exceptional roster. It’s hard to fault the Dodgers for their player development, but if “temporary backup” is Ruiz’s ceiling in Los Angeles beyond this year, perhaps they held onto him too long.