The Washington Nationals possibly have a franchise centerpiece in the form of their 24-year-old Venezuelan catcher, Keibert Ruiz. The backstop was acquired in the Trea Turner and Max Scherzer trade with Los Angeles that also sent starting pitcher Josiah Gray to Washington. Ruiz had lots to deal with in his first full professional season, managing a young pitching staff and switch-hitting at the plate. With a year under his belt, expect Ruiz to be more comfortable both behind the plate and in the batter’s box. Could this be the year he makes the leap to the elite catcher category? He certainly has the tools. Here’s how he does it.
Keibert has power in the tank. According to baseballreference.com, Ruiz slugged 21 home runs in the 2021 minor league season. He played in just 73 minor league games before getting the call to the major leagues. Why hasn’t the power translated to the majors yet for Ruiz? He is simply not patient enough at the plate. Keibert has an elite eye at the plate, only striking out 50 times in 2022, but he walked just 30 times. He has not been overly patient at the plate in his professional career, with 30 walks being the most he’s compiled in a season to date. This is a skill Ruiz has to add to his repertoire. Being selective at the plate leads to better pitches to hit.
Ruiz flashed his power in the 2022 season, smashing two home runs in the same game versus the Chicago Cubs on August 9th. The power is certainly there for Keibert, it’s a matter of him waiting to get pitches to hit at the plate. With a year of experience under his belt, I fully expect Ruiz to expand on his power, at least hitting ten home runs in 2023.
Improving Game Management
The biggest fault of Ruiz’s skillset at the moment is his pitch-calling. This is arguably the hardest skill for a young catcher to learn in the majors. Usually, in the minor leagues, coaches call pitches, taking stress off their young backstops and letting them focus on the game itself. In the majors, it’s all on the catcher. So understanding pitch sequence is something Ruiz must develop in.
PitchCom, major league baseball’s technology that allows pitchers and catchers to call pitches electronically, now has a full season of use, and teams have a better understanding of how to utilize it. This technology allows Ruiz to call the game in a faster manner, which is perfect since major league baseball is implementing a Pitch Clock this year that was tested in the minor leagues.
Last season should prove to be highly beneficial for Ruiz, who was forced to learn how to call games on the fly. This season, he had an entire offseason to prepare while knowing what to expect from the major leagues. Ruiz’s defense was already at an elite level last season, throwing 20 runners out on the base paths. The backstop was shutting down opposing teams running games with regularity last year.
Keibert Ruiz is my pick to make the All-Star team in 2023. He is absolutely a dark-horse pick, but if the 24-year-old backstop continues to build more power at the plate and improves his game management, he will develop into one of the best catchers in the major leagues. The Washington Nationals have their catcher of the future, Keibert Ruiz.