Dodgers put Smith (neck) on IL, recall Ruiz

August 16th, 2020

Dodgers catcher was placed on the 10-day injured list with neck inflammation and top catching prospect was recalled and will start Sunday’s game against the Angels.

Ruiz, 22, is ranked as the club’s third-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. A switch-hitter, he has alternated this year between being on the taxi squad and the alternate training site, where manager Dave Roberts said he’s made steady improvement.

“Keibert has done a fantastic job, everything we’ve asked of him at the secondary site,” said Roberts. “He’s always been very good bat to ball. The left-handed swing is a little bit uphill, around the baseball, contact very good always. But our hitting guys have really cleaned that up and got him to backspin the baseball. That’s been really good. He’s understanding how we do things as far as signs, game planning. He's been around us yesterday and today, been in some meetings.”

Smith appeared to be whiplashed when Fernando Tatis Jr. barreled into him at the plate on Aug. 3, but started five more games before leaving the Aug. 12 start and hasn’t played since.

The Dodgers zeroed in on Ruiz's defensive ability when they signed him for $140,000 out of Venezuela in 2014, but his bat proved more advanced than expected and allowed him to progress rapidly through the system. He spent all of 2018 in Double-A at age 19, sharing time with Will Smith on a Texas League championship club. While Smith established himself as Los Angeles' starting catcher by the end of 2019, Ruiz returned to Double-A and posted the worst offensive numbers of his career.

Thanks to his feel for the barrel and disciplined approach, Ruiz excels at making contact from both sides of the plate. He shows much more pop as a lefty hitter, with just two of his 29 homers in his first five pro seasons coming as a righty. He has solid raw power but won't fully tap into it until he becomes more selective hunting pitches he can drive.

Ruiz has the tools to be at least a solid defender but has some lapses behind the plate. He's agile, possesses soft hands and frames the ball well, but his receiving can get lackadaisical. He can flash solid arm strength but his accuracy wavers at times, and he threw out just 23 percent of basestealers in his first three years of full-season ball.

Báez's velocity decrease
The Dodgers are "digging into" why reliever 's fastball velocity has dropped from an average of 96 mph last year to 94.5 mph this year. He was a late arrival to Summer Camp, but by now his velocity should have increased if the reason was only the short ramp-up, Roberts said.

“There’s nothing that I’ve heard physically,” said Roberts. “Mechanically, he looks somewhat similar, but the truth of the matter is it was a quick ramp-up for Pedro and the ball’s not coming out like we’re used to. You would expect after seven outings to see an uptick. That’s not the case. It’s not that we’re concerned about it, but it’s something we’re digging into.”

A converted third baseman, the 32-year-old overcame struggles as a thrower in his early years to have his best season as a pitcher last year, going 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 71 games and a .174 opponents' batting average while effectively mixing in more offspeed pitches. This year, he already has walked five in 9 1/3 innings and has essentially lost his setup role to Blake Treinen.