Keibert Ruiz's bat has been heating up in recent days. On Thursday night, it pushed his average over the .300 mark.
Baseball’s No. 41 overall prospect homered and doubled on a season-best four-hit night, his sixth multi-hit game of his last 17 played, as Triple-A Oklahoma City fell at El Paso, 15-8.
“The biggest thing offensively is his approach,” Oklahoma City manager Travis Barbary said on Thursday night. “I think he knows that pitchers are aware of his bat-to-ball skill and that he can put balls in play at any time. The thing for me, just watching him over the last few years, he didn’t walk a lot previously. I think he’s understanding now which pitches he handles best and which pitches he can do damage on.”
Ruiz and the Dodgers found themselves trailing the Chihuahuas 7-0 after just two innings, but the catcher helped jumpstart his team in the third with a double to right field as part of a two-run frame. In the fourth, the top Dodgers prospect laced a single and followed in the sixth with a solo home run to right-center, already his third longball of July after a two-homer showing on the first day of the month.
Ruiz capped off his night with an RBI single to third base. That knock gave the 22-year-old his first four-hit game since May 16, 2019 while with Double-A Tulsa.
“Even the guys in the dugout during the course of the game, they’re amazed at some of the at-bats that he has,” Barbary said. “He had four of them tonight, hit the longest home run I’ve ever seen him hit, doubled, had two singles as well. His bat-to-ball skills are tremendous, and I think now he’s refining his approach to understand that he doesn’t have to put every ball in play. He can basically sit on certain pitches and be more selective.”
Since a stretch of three hitless games dropped his slash line to .260/.319/.587 heading into play on June 24, Ruiz has batted .435/.519/.870 with four homers, two doubles, 10 RBIs and an astounding 11 walks against just two strikeouts over his last 11 games. His overall slash line now sits at .301/.384/.636.
“He can get down in the count early, but ultimately it seems like he can work it back to a 3-2 count,” the manager added. “Whether that turns into a walk, a base hit, home run, whatever it might be, [it’s] just his patience at the plate. Where before he knew he could put almost any ball in play at will and at times would hurt him where he would put something offspeed early in the count in play for a groundout, now he’s sitting on certain pitches, I feel like, and he’s doing a lot more damage. He’s driving the ball a lot more consistently for [slugging percentage], so his progression has been a lot of fun to watch.”
Barbary stressed that it isn’t just Ruiz’s bat that has impressed this year. The young catcher has grown substantially in his work with his pitchers, too.
“Probably the biggest thing is just his preparation, as far as his catching, working with the pitching staff, game-planning, going over advance reports that we have on other teams,” Barbary said. “He’s really diving into that and trying to get more comfortable with information that he’s going to be given in the big leagues and learning how to process that. He’s been doing a great job.”
Though they didn’t quiet El Paso’s bats on Thursday, Oklahoma City pitchers boast the third-best team ERA in Triple-A West at 5.18. Ruiz gets his share of the credit for that work, according to his skipper.
“It’s actually been really neat to see his confidence grow, not only to understand the information and take it into a game and actually apply it, sitting down with pitchers in the dugout between innings, going over the guys that are coming up the next half-inning, formulating a plan,” Barbary said. “A lot of that, too, he’s a lot more comfortable communicating now with his English. He’s worked so hard on that to be able to just communicate with the pitchers. He’s become much more assertive behind the plate. We forget that he’s still so young and learning to play the toughest position in the sport, in my opinion, and it’s just fun to watch him grow as a person and as a player.”