The Nationals will place catcher Keibert Ruiz on the 10-day injured list Friday and select the contract of fellow catcher Israel Pineda from Triple-A Rochester, as first reported by TalkNats (Twitter links). They’ll also recall righty Jordan Weems from Rochester. The team hasn’t formally announced the moves, though Pineda’s reps at PNY Sports have announced his promotion to the big leagues (Twitter link).
Ruiz was injured behind the plate yesterday when he took a foul ball off his groin. While he initially remained in the game for a few innings, he was eventually lifted and replaced by Riley Adams. Manager Dave Martinez told reporters after the game that Ruiz was headed to a hospital for further evaluation due to swelling in his testicles.
The 24-year-old Ruiz was widely considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball prior to his arrival on the big league scene, and he was one of the headline talents acquired in the blockbuster deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from D.C. to L.A. at the 2021 trade deadline. He’s had a solid but unspectacular showing at the plate in his first full year with the Nats, batting .251/.313/.360. That’s 11% worse than the league-average hitter, by measure of wRC+, but right in line with the average production among big league catchers.
The Nats didn’t necessarily need to replace Ruiz with another catcher, as they were already carrying three, with both Adams and Tres Barrera on the big league roster. They’ll stick with that three-catcher arrangement for now, though, and in doing so will get their first look at the 22-year-old Pineda, who’s had a breakout season across three minor league levels.
Pineda hit just .208/.260/.389 in High-A last year but has soared from that level all the way to Triple-A in 2022. He followed up a solid .264/.325/.443 showing in 67 High-A games with an excellent .280/.340/.538 output in 26 games at the Double-A level. He’s just 2-for-21 in his first six Triple-A contests, but Pineda’s combined .258/.325/.458 batting line this year is plenty productive — particularly for a catcher. Pineda has nabbed an impressive 41% of runners who’ve attempted to steal against him in parts of five professional seasons.
Pineda currently checks in as the No. 22 prospect at FanGraphs, No. 23 at Baseball America and No. 26 at MLB.com in what’s obviously considered a much-improved farm system following the complete roster tear-down in Washington. Given his performance in 2022, Pineda would likely have been added to the 40-man roster this winter anyhow, as the Nats would’ve needed to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft. They’ll now get an early look at him, at least for the next few days.