Dodgers: What does Keibert Ruiz’s breakout year mean ahead of trade deadline?

Jerry Trotta
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Keibert Ruiz #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the World Team walks through the dugout as he leaves the game injured in the seventh inning against the U.S. Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Keibert Ruiz #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the World Team walks through the dugout as he leaves the game injured in the seventh inning against the U.S. Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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The Los Angeles Dodgers are all too familiar with the downsides of boasting a rich farm system, as their monster payroll has made it nearly impossible for some of their high-ranking prospects to crack the starting lineup over the years.

Given so many players at the position are needed, pitchers have had far more success breaking through into the Dodgers’ roster.

Just over the last few seasons, we’ve seen hurlers like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin make that leap and become key pieces.

When it comes to position players, however, it’s a whole new ballgame. Sure, some of the Dodgers’ best players right now hail from the club’s pipeline, but countless redundant prospects have been unloaded in trades to bolster LA’s title odds in recent years.

Why are we saying this? Because Keibert Ruiz, currently the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect, per MLB.com, is absolutely tearing it up for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

With Ruiz dominating minor league pitching just a few weeks before the annual trade deadline, could the Dodgers use him as bait to acquire another pitcher?

Does Keibert Ruiz have a future with the Dodgers?

It’s no secret that the Dodgers need pitching right now. Clayton Kershaw, though he’s expected back shortly after the All-Star Break, is dealing with elbow inflammation.

Trevor Bauer will be lucky if he pitches again this season while MLB investigates his troubling sexual assault allegations. Dustin May is done for the campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery. On top of that, the bullpen’s dealing with injuries.

It’s unclear the caliber of pitcher the Dodgers are targeting, and, in a perfect world, they would likely rather not trade their top prospects. However, if they go for the jugular, some of their highest-touted youngsters will have to be included in return.

That’s where Ruiz comes in. The switch-hitting catcher is hitting .301/.384/.636 to go with 12 doubles and home runs apiece, 30 RBI, and a ridiculous 1.021 OPS in 37 games at Triple-A. He’s also shown outstanding discipline, managing more walks (20) than strikeouts (18).

Ruiz’s breakout has seen him shoot up prospect rankings. Baseball America has the 22-year-old stud listed at No. 41 after starting the year at No. 53. Baseball Prospectus, meanwhile, has him ranked 39th, up a whopping 35 spots from No. 74 in the preseason.

It’s hard to tell if this stellar play is the norm for Ruiz. He’s never recorded more than 12 home runs or 51 RBI in a single season over his minor league career and is on pace to shatter both of those individual marks with ease.

We’d obviously hate to see Ruiz go, but the Dodgers might consider selling high on the Venezuela native, and fans should brace themselves in case it happens. After all, Austin Barnes is here through 2022 and Will Smith isn’t going anywhere.

One final note: Diego Cartaya, who’s three years younger, is widely considered the Dodgers’ catcher of the future. The Dodgers have the necessary depth here to unload from a position of strength. And they have to capitalize on the perfect timing.

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