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

“A switch-hitter with plus contact abilities from the left aspect, rising energy, and bettering protection behind the plate,” Baseball America’s scouts wrote in rating Nationals’ catcher Keibert Ruiz the No. 11 general 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 competition would rely, no less than in half, on simply how, “… rapidly … Keibert Ruiz turn into[s] that frontline catcher,” they want in 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 in the majors over the ultimate month of the season, have been constructive.

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds

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Picture by Dylan Buell/Getty Photos

“Ruiz has proven me issues that we didn’t see after we scouted him,” Rizzo informed reporters in 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 exhibits that he might be a pressure 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) in the primary 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 Okay over the ultimate 15 video games.

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What modified?

“I believe I’m not making an attempt to do an excessive amount of,” Ruiz mentioned by translator Octavio Martinez in the ultimate weeks of the season. “Earlier than I used to be leaping a bit of bit and swinging at all the things. Proper now, I’m simply making an attempt to focus, and swing at my pitch, till I get to two strikes. I imply, that’s what I can management, and I’m simply going to preserve targeted on that, preserve engaged on that and get higher on daily basis.”

“He got here right here,” supervisor Davey Martinez mentioned, in assessing Ruiz’s time in 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] undoubtedly realized loads, I’m watching him enhance behind the plate, blocking balls, we speak about him establishing a bit of earlier, a bit of later with guys on base, he’s doing that, he’s doing it nicely.”

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Martinez pointed to a late-season, bases-loaded stroll which Ruiz took in Coors Discipline for instance of what he likes in regards to the catcher’s method 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 center of an at-bat — and I assumed, ‘You speak about a man that basically 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 wished to do was be certain that I drove in a run,’ and he did by strolling, he didn’t need 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 informed him he’s going to undergo spurts like that, the hits will come, you simply received 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 nicely now.”

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

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals

Picture by Mitchell Layton/Getty Photos

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

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

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

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