MLB Prospect Watch: Intriguing September call-ups, including Keibert Ruiz and a former Yankees arm

Major League Baseball’s regular season is now entering its final month. Unlike in years past, however, the minor-league season remains ongoing because of the delayed start caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That, combined with the relatively new limits on September roster sizes (now capped at 28 players instead of 40), means that there won’t be as many debuting prospects to monitor over the coming weeks.

Nevertheless, this week’s Prospect Watch is dedicated to highlighting three players who recently received the call to the Show.

Ruiz, 23, had already appeared in a smattering of big-league games with the Dodgers before he was sent to D.C. in the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner trade at the deadline. He made his Nationals debut on Monday after hitting .308/.365/.577 with five home runs and more walks than strikeouts in 20 games with Washington’s Triple-A affiliate. 

Ruiz had previously been thought of as a contact maestro with limited in-game power production, yet he’s demonstrated this season that it’s possible for players to change their batted-ball profile for the better. His ground-ball rate is under 30 percent for the year after having consistently checked in above 40 percent. Additionally, his 21 home runs already represent a new single-season best, and they account for nearly half of his professional total. 

It’s to be seen if Ruiz’s power will translate to the majors, but if so, he has a chance to be a more dynamic offensive player than imagined.

Another trade deadline addition, Otto was part of the package Texas received from the Yankees in exchange for Joey Gallo. He made his big-league debut last Friday, striking out seven Astros across five shutout innings.

Otto, 25, has battled injury woes throughout his professional career — to the extent that durability is arguably his biggest drawback. Stuff-wise, it’s obvious that he belongs in the majors. Otto peppered the Astros with 93-mph fastballs and a relatively new slider that generated 40 percent whiffs. He’s listed at 6-foot-5 yet he generated more than seven feet of extension (meaning the distance from the rubber to his release point) on the heater, allowing it to play more than a mile per hour faster than it appeared on the radar gun.

Otto seems more likely than not to end up in the bullpen before he reaches the arbitration phase of his career, but the Rangers owe it to him and themselves to see if he can withstand a big-league workload before making the switch.

Cabrera, 23, is the latest highly touted arm to reach Miami. He punched his ticket to the Show after posting a 2.93 ERA and striking out 37 percent of the minor-league batters he faced this year in 13 appearances across three levels.

Cabrera hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success in his first two big-league starts. It’s too small a sample to concern oneself about, of course, but for posterity’s sake: he’s yielded six runs on 11 hits in 10 innings while punching out just four of the 40 batters he’s faced. (Again, lest anyone have missed the first caveat: Cabrera will be fine.)

Cabrera is interesting in one other regard. He has an upper-90s fastball, but it’s not his arsenal’s breadwinner. Indeed, his heater seldom misses bats, and he’s better served doing what he’s done so far by loading up on his pair of swing-and-miss secondaries, in his slider and low-90s changeup. You have to admit, it’s not often that a starter has that kind of arm strength yet is justified in going with the soft stuff more frequently. 

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