The Nationals are calling up catching prospect Keibert Ruiz to make his team debut tomorrow, per a team announcement. The 23-year-old is widely-considered one of the team’s best prospects, if not the best. MLB Pipeline and Baseball America have him as the club’s number one, while FanGraphs has him second, behind only Josiah Gray, both of whom just joined the organization as part of the trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers.
Ruiz has long been viewed as an impact prospect, having been on Baseball America’s Top 100 list for each of the past four years. However, as he reached the upper levels of the minor leagues, it was difficult for him to get playing time in Los Angeles because the Dodgers already had an excellent catcher in Will Smith. Ruiz played just eight games for the Dodgers between last season and this one, logging only 15 plate appearances. As such, it made sense for the club to use him as a trade chip and bolster other areas of the team. With the Nationals having traded away Yan Gomes, they should be able to give Ruiz the run of playing time he never got in Los Angeles.
In Triple-A this year, Ruiz has put up tremendous numbers to back up that prospect status. In 72 games between the two organizations, he has a line .310/.377/.616, producing a wRC+ of 141. If he can produce anything close to that at the big league level, that would make him one of the best offensive catchers in the game.
Since trading Gomes, the Nats have been splitting the catching duties between Riley Adams and Tres Barrera, both of whom have been playing well. In 18 games since coming to Washington from Toronto in the Brad Hand trade, Adams has put up a line of .349/.451/.581, wRC+ of 177. For Barrera, he has a line of .270/.369/.393, wRC+ of 106 in 29 games this year. Both players have options and could potentially be sent down as the corresponding move for Ruiz, but rosters are expanding from 26 to 28 on September 1st, which could allow the club to carry all three. Since the Nats are out of contention, they can use the final month of the season to evaluate their catching options and determine how to proceed for the future.