The Dodgers have placed catcher Will Smith on the 10-day injured list due to neck inflammation. Top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz has been recalled from the Dodgers’ alternate training site and is in line to make his Major League debut.
Smith’s neck issues led to an early exit from the Dodgers’ 6-0 win over the Padres last Wednesday, though the problem initially arose after a collision with Fernando Tatis Jr. over a week ago. The injury doesn’t seem overly serious, as manager Dave Roberts told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other reporters yesterday that Smith was feeling “not pain, but really the stiffness moving his head side to side,” yet an IL stint will allow the catcher to fully recover and also allow Los Angeles to add depth behind the plate. Ruiz will join Austin Barnes as the only catchers on the active roster, and given Ruiz’s potential, it’s fair to wonder if L.A. will give him a solid amount of playing time.
Ruiz has been a regular on top-100 prospect lists for the last three seasons, entering 2020 rated 73rd by MLB Pipeline, 79th by Baseball Prospectus, 81st by Baseball America, and 91st by Fangraphs. The 22-year-old has hit .299/.351/.420 over 1580 career plate appearances in the minors, though he only has 40 Triple-A plate appearances to his credit. The lack of Triple-A playing time was due to both a finger injury and rather a lackluster .659 OPS over 310 PA for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate.
Baseball America’s scouting report (subscription required) mentions that Ruiz “struggled with motivation” after not starting the season at Triple-A, and his production notably picked up once he did get promoted. The switch-hitting Ruiz’s “elite-hand eye coordination and ability to manipulate the barrel give him the foundation of a plus hitter, and he almost never swings and misses,” according to BA, though Ruiz is also hampered by a lack of aggressiveness at the plate and a frequency to fall behind in counts. Ruiz has shown some good defensive potential, though Fangraphs’ report notes that scouts became more “mixed” on his ability behind the plate during the 2019 season.