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Washington Nationals’ prospect countdown: No. 1 - Keibert Ruiz

The top prospect with the Nationals brings more youth to the club...

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

[ed. note - “With interest in the Washington Nationals’ farm system at a high level, Federal Baseball started a series featuring the top 30 prospects in the system as of late last season, according to Baseball America. We started with No. 30 on November 4th, and worked our way to the top over the last few weeks, with one prospect highlighted each weekday. Now we’re finally at No. 1...”]

WASHINGTON – It is debatable whether or not the catching situation for the Nationals will be better at the start of the 2022 Major League than it was last year.

But there is no debate Washington will be younger at that spot.

After using Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes in 2019 to win a World Series, the team brought back Gomes in 2020 and paired him with fellow veteran Alex Avila.

Gomes was traded to Oakland in late July while Avila finished out the year with the Nationals, getting a hit on the last day of the season after he announced his retirement following 2021.

Now the Nationals have Keibert Ruiz – who turned 23 last summer – as the No. 1 catcher when Spring Training begins in West Palm Beach in February.

Washington plays its first Spring Training game Feb. 26 at Detroit in Lakeland.

Ruiz got a chance to get familiar with several of the Nationals’ pitchers as he played in 23 games with the club after the late July trade with the Dodgers.

The native of Venezuela made his Major League debut in six games with Los Angles earlier in the season.

He hit .284 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 81 at-bats with the Nationals.

“We got him, we knew he was a good hitter. We knew that he was a high-contact guy,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters late in the season.

“He wanted to make a first impression as we all do when we go to a new team. I think he was pressing a little bit, trying too hard.

“And also too, we talked about him trying to stay taller, on his upper half, and he did that, he made some adjustments, and now he’s able to get to the ball, he frees his hands up a little bit better, and he’s getting to the ball a lot easier. But he’s having really good at-bats, and that’s the key. Now, like I said, he’s got great bat-to-ball skills, he likes to swing, you know, he’s not up there — you know, which is great. Now he’s another one that we really want to get him in the zone, because when he gets the ball in the zone, you can see, he hits the ball really hard,” the manager added.