Talking to reporters in the immediate aftermath of the Washington Nationals’ fire sale at the trade deadline, GM Mike Rizzo described catcher Keibert Ruiz, 23, as the main cog in the 4-for-2 deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for a package that included Ruiz, 23-year-old starter Josiah Gray, pitcher Gerardo Carillo, 22, and 25-year-old outfielder Donovan Casey.
“I think they’re big league-ready players,” Rizzo said of the return for Scherzer and Turner.
“They’ve proven themselves at the minor league level, we think they’re impactful type of players. I think it — not only did we get a very talented, impactful player [in Ruiz], we got that at a position that we really needed it. It’s one of the key positions in all of baseball, and like when we acquired Wilson Ramos in a trade, you could see what that particular position had, and the impact that position can do for a baseball team, and I think that he was a focal point of what we were trying to do at the trade deadline, and we identified him, and he was the main cog that we were trying to get.
“And Jo-Jo Gray is a terrific young prospect, he’s got great stuff and a terrific pitcher and he’s a guy that we should see very soon if not right away in the big leagues. He’s big league ready, he was a starting pitcher on a championship-caliber club with the Dodgers, and I think he’ll come over here and just continue to improve and make himself into one of the elite starting pitchers in the game.”
Keibert Ruiz is the No. 13 prospect in @MLB according to @BaseballAmerica.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 25, 2021
Last night, he had his 1st multi-HR game since joining the Nats organization.
(He has 19 homers at Triple-A this season.)#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/taiBZO6KeG
Gray came up right away, joining the Nationals’ rotation after they traded Scherzer and Jon Lester at the deadline. He talked after his first outing for his new team, about the work he’d done with Ruiz in the Dodgers’ system, and how impressed he’d been with the catcher who became the No. 1 prospect in Washington’s organization as soon as he was acquired.
“He’s awesome,” Gray said. “He’s really fun to throw to. As I’ve told some of the guys here that asked me about him, I think he’s hit for more power this year than he ever has before, from both sides of the plate, so he’s really exciting to watch.
“In Oklahoma City, he was barreling a ball, barreling two balls every game. So I’m really excited to see him get here when he gets here, and start throwing to him again and seeing him swing the bat, cause it’s fun when he’s on and he’s a guy that’s going to go out there and give his all.
“He’s a little bit more quiet, but I think that fits right in to how I like it. I’m a little more quiet myself, so I’m really excited to see him in a Nationals uniform and performing and doing great things like I know he can.”
MLB’s Pipeline scouts described Ruiz as, “one of the premier contact hitters in the minors,” in their write-up on the catcher, adding that while he, “has the tools to be a solid defender,” he, “... lacks consistency behind the plate.”
In 52 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers’ system, Ruiz put up a .311/.381/.631 line with 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 23 walks, and 27 Ks in 231 plate appearances, and the catcher had a .318/.366/.636 line with six doubles and five home runs, five walks, and 6 Ks in 17 games and 71 PAs at Triple-A Rochester after back-to-back, two-home run games this week.
So clearly, he can hit. How about his development behind the plate? Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said in Thursday’s pregame Zoom call with reporters that scouting reports he is receiving from upstate NY have been positive.
“I’ve actually heard that he’s done a lot better,” Martinez said. “He’s continued to progress back behind the plate, I know [bullpen coach] Henry [Blanco] has been looking at some videos and watching him, [first base coach] Randy [Knorr] has been doing the same thing, but the good thing is that he’s swinging the bat well, he’s learning. I talked to some of the pitchers that we brought up that actually threw to him and they said that he’s actually good back there and he understands the game, he knows what he wants to do, and he reads the scouting reports well, so I’m looking forward to getting him whenever we decide to bring him up here and see what he can do at the major league level.”
And since he mentioned it, when will they bring Ruiz up, and what’s the thinking on the real benefits of sharing time behind the plate in the big leagues and finishing up the campaign down at Triple-A playing as much as possible? He has eight games, and two home runs on his resume in the majors already, after the Dodgers called him up in 2020 and again earlier this season.
“As of right he’s getting an opportunity to play every day down in Triple-A,” Martinez said, “and that’s what we want him to do. Mike [Rizzo] and I are keeping an eye on him and we’ll figure something out here soon, but for right now he’s going to catch every day in Triple-A.”