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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 bettering protection behind the plate,” Baseball America’s scouts wrote in rating Nationals’ catcher Keibert Ruiz the No. 11 general prospect on their High 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 acquired in return for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, stated on the finish of the 2021 marketing campaign that the 23-year-old was, “… engaged on blocking balls higher, and all the time engaged on his rapport along with his pitchers,” and the timing of the membership’s return to competition would rely, at the very least in half, on simply how, “… rapidly … Keibert Ruiz grow to be[s] that frontline catcher,” they want in the nation’s capital.

The early returns, which embrace 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, had been optimistic.

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Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds

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“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 reveals that he might be a power offensively — that doesn’t come as a shock.”

Initially upon coming to the majors, Ruiz struggled on the plate, going 3 for 8 (.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.

What modified?

“I believe I’m not making an attempt to do an excessive amount of,” Ruiz stated via translator Octavio Martinez in the ultimate weeks of the season. “Earlier than I used to be leaping just a little bit and swinging at all the pieces. 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 maintain targeted on that, maintain engaged on that and get higher day-after-day.”

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“He got here right here,” supervisor Davey Martinez stated, 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 amazing asset for us so far as serving to with our younger catchers proper now, so [Ruiz has] positively realized loads, I’m watching him enhance behind the plate, blocking balls, we discuss him organising just a little earlier, just a little 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 example of what he likes in regards to 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 center of an at-bat — and I believed, ‘You discuss 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 stated, ‘All I needed to do was be certain 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 bought to be sure to 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 stated 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 strategy 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 predict that he can maintain that all through a yr, from either side of the plate,” Martinez stated. “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 vital as everyone knows to cease the working recreation.

“So, we’re actually enthusiastic about these guys, and among the different guys that you simply guys haven’t seen that we bought in a commerce, which are doing very well, and so they’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 bought.”

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