Washington Nationals’ Keibert Ruiz getting opportunity to be everyday catcher in D.C.

“A switch-hitter with plus contact expertise from the left aspect, rising energy, and enhancing protection behind the plate,” Baseball America’s scouts wrote in rating Nationals’ catcher Keibert Ruiz the No. 11 total prospect on their Prime 100 for 2022, the backstop, “… has the potential to be a foundational participant in Washington’s rebuild.”

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who acquired Ruiz from the Los Angeles Dodgers as one of many 4 gamers obtained in return for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, mentioned on the finish of the 2021 marketing campaign that the 23-year-old was, “… engaged on blocking balls higher, and at all times engaged on his rapport along with his pitchers,” and the timing of the membership’s return to rivalry would rely, a minimum of partially, on simply how, “… rapidly … Keibert Ruiz develop into[s] that frontline catcher,” they want within the nation’s capital.

The early returns, which embody Ruiz placing up a .284/.348/.395 line, three doubles, and two homers in 23 video games and 89 plate appearances within the majors over the ultimate month of the season, had been constructive.

Photograph by Dylan Buell/Getty Photographs

“Ruiz has proven me issues that we didn’t see once we scouted him,” Rizzo advised reporters within the early days of October this previous fall, with the work the catcher did with the Nationals’ pitchers and coaches as soon as he got here up in September standing out.

“He doesn’t strike out a lot, even at this degree,” the GM continued, pointing to Ruiz’s plate self-discipline and persistence, “and he reveals that he might be a drive offensively — that doesn’t come as a shock.”

Initially upon coming to the majors, Ruiz struggled on the plate, going 3 for 28 (.107/.167/.107) within the first eight video games and 30 PAs earlier than he completed with a 20 for 53 run (.377/.441/.547) with a complete of 4 walks and only one Ok over the ultimate 15 video games.

What modified?

“I feel I’m not attempting to do an excessive amount of,” Ruiz mentioned by way of translator Octavio Martinez within the remaining weeks of the season. “Earlier than I used to be leaping slightly bit and swinging at every thing. Proper now, I’m simply attempting to focus, and swing at my pitch, till I get to 2 strikes. I imply, that’s what I can management, and I’m simply going to maintain centered on that, preserve engaged on that and get higher daily.”

“He got here right here,” supervisor Davey Martinez mentioned, in assessing Ruiz’s time within the majors with the Nationals in September.

“[Bullpen and catching coach] Henry [Blanco] has been working with him on catching, he’s been working with him on calling video games,” the skipper continued. “He’s talked to Alex Avila, who has been an incredible asset for us so far as serving to with our younger catchers proper now, so [Ruiz has] positively realized lots, I’m watching him enhance behind the plate, blocking balls, we speak about him establishing slightly earlier, slightly later with guys on base, he’s doing that, he’s doing it effectively.”

Martinez pointed to a late-season, bases-loaded stroll which Ruiz took in Coors Area for instance of what he likes concerning the catcher’s strategy on the plate.

“He had an unbelievable at bat the place he walked. I imply, he was calling out strikes and balls when he was hitting,” the supervisor laughed, “and it was actually loud too, and in the midst of an at-bat — and I assumed, ‘You speak about a man that actually needs to win the at-bat and compete,’ I imply, that to me, was superior, and I talked to him about it, and he mentioned, ‘All I needed to do was be certain that I drove in a run,’ and he did by strolling, he didn’t wish to give in.”

“As we noticed, Ruiz struggled early on, he wasn’t getting any hits,” the supervisor proceed. “And we talked to him, we stayed with him, we advised him he’s going to undergo spurts like that, the hits will come, you simply obtained to ensure you have good at-bats, prepare, and unexpectedly right here he goes, and he simply took off, and he’s hitting the ball effectively now.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ruiz mentioned of his enchancment over the ultimate month of the season. “I’m not attempting to hit a homer, I really feel like if I keep in my strategy there, the homer goes to return.”

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals

Photograph by Mitchell Layton/Getty Photographs

The membership is relying on their younger No. 1 catcher to have the ability to produce like he did over the ultimate weeks of 2021 all through the 2022 marketing campaign.

“We predict that he can maintain that all through a yr, from each side of the plate,” Martinez mentioned. “We haven’t seen him actually — he’s confirmed us a small pattern measurement of him throwing, however we all know he can catch and throw, and that’s vital as everyone knows to cease the working recreation.

“So, we’re actually enthusiastic about these guys, and a number of the different guys that you just guys haven’t seen that we obtained in a commerce, which might be doing very well, they usually’ve completed effectively since they’ve been right here with us. So I’m excited to see these guys in Spring Coaching as effectively and see what we obtained.”


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