Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The 2021 season got off to a late start for Keibert Ruiz as he was not able to immediately report to Camelback Ranch for Spring Training due to visa issues from Venezuela to the United States.
However, once he arrived, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top prospect was quick to impress manager Dave Roberts.
“I’m just really, really pleased with where Keibert is at right now taking that next step forward from being just a prospect to being a big-league ballplayer,” Roberts said during Spring Training.
Although Ruiz had an impressive spring, he was blocked on the roster by starting catcher Will Smith and veteran backup Austin Barnes, so he was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to begin the season.
The now-23-year-old catcher continued to produce at the Minor League level and on May 4 he was recalled ahead of a doubleheader and spent six days with the Major League club.
Ruiz went 1-for-6 with a solo home run and four strikeouts during his brief stint with the Dodgers. He was also recalled for one day on May 16 and went 0-for-1 before getting optioned.
While he had yet to show much in his brief opportunities at the highest level, Ruiz continued to dominate at Triple-A as he became one of the most popular names on the trade market.
The peak of Ruiz’s production came just one week before the trade deadline as the switch-hitting catcher had a three-home run game for Oklahoma City, finishing the game 4-for-4 with the homers, a double and five RBI. It was a continuation of his last 20 starts where he reached base in 19 of the games and went 31-for-83 (.373) with five doubles, eight homers, 15 runs scored and 23 RBI.
Six days after his three-homer game, the Dodgers traded Ruiz, along with top pitching prospect Josiah Gray, Gerardo Carillo and Donovan Casey to the Washington Nationals for superstars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.
Over the years the Dodgers declined to part with Ruiz in every deal. However, the emergence of Smith as one of the best catchers in baseball, and the opportunity to add two elite players on their journey to repeat as World Series champions allowed L.A. to finally move their top prospect to a new organization.
Ruiz stayed in the Nationals’ Minor League system for the next month before being recalled on Aug. 30 when he took over as their everyday catcher.
Once he got the opportunity to start every day, Ruiz finally started to see some success at the Major League level. In 20 games with the Nationals, he hit .292/.363/.417 with two home runs and 112 wRC+ while walking 2.5% more than he struck out.
Ruiz’s 2021 highlight
The highlight of Ruiz’s season with the Dodgers came in his first game of the year on May 4 when he homered in his first at-bat of the season in a 7-1 loss against the Chicago Cubs.
It was his only hit of 2021 with the Dodgers and the third of his career.
With the Nationals, Ruiz homered on Sept. 24 and 25, going 4-9 with three RBI over the two-game span.
Ruiz is expected to remain the starting catcher for the Nationals during the 2022 season and it would not be surprising if he develops into one of MLB’s top catchers.
Ruiz is one of the lone bright spots on a roster in a rebuilding phase and he, along with Juan Soto, should provide Nationals fans with some entertainment during what will likely be a rough season.
The most interesting thing to watch for is how his power develops as a full-time Major Leaguer as his game power has always been his biggest question despite showing flashes of solid power.
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