MLB

Nationals top prospect Keibert Ruiz, key piece of Max Scherzer trade with Dodgers, set for team debut

The Washington Nationals on Sunday announced that catching prospect Keibert Ruiz has been called up and will start on Monday at home in the series opener against the Phillies. Ruiz, 23, from the Nats’ standpoint was the centerpiece of the deadline blockbuster six-player trade that most notably sent ace Max Scherzer and All-Star infielder Trea Turner to the Dodgers. Josiah Gray, also part of Washington’s return in the deadline deal, is set to pitch Monday for Ruiz’s debut.

Coming into the 2021 season, our R.J. Anderson ranked Ruiz as the No. 38 overall prospect in baseball. Since then, however, he’s raised his stock significantly. 

Ruiz had been notable for his impressive bat-to-ball skills, but prior to this year he profiled as a high-average, low-power hitter. That can still be quite valuable, particularly at the premium position of catcher, where Ruiz could be a defensive asset long-term. However, this season Ruiz has unlocked his power. 

Here’s what we wrote about him in detailing the trade that sent him to the Nats

“As for Washington’s return, Ruiz, 23, is a switch-hitter who has appeared in eight big-league games. He’s spent most of this season in Triple-A, hitting .311/.381/.631 with 16 home runs and nearly as many walks (23) as strikeouts (27). Ruiz’s power gains (he’d previously never homered more than 12 times in a season) have been accompanied by a drastic shift in his batted-ball profile: according to FanGraphs, his groundball rate has dipped from 49 percent to 24 percent. If those changes are here to stay, he could prove to be the ever-rare two-way backstop.”

Since the trade, Ruiz in 20 games for the Nats’ Triple-A affiliate has batted .308/.365/.577 with five home runs, six doubles, and more walks than strikeouts. Once you adjust for ballpark effects, that’s basically the same kind of season has was having at the top rung of the Dodgers’ system prior to the trade. In other words, there’s every indication that Ruiz is ready to make an impact at the highest level. 

He does have eight games in the majors — two last year and six this year — with the Dodgers, but this figures to be his first extended look in MLB. Given that we’re closing in on September, Ruiz will almost certainly be in D.C. for the remainder of the season. Without question, he’s the catcher of the present and future for the Nationals. 



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