Drillers' Ruiz powers way out of slump

Dodgers No. 3 prospect breaks 2-for-22 skid with two homers

Keibert Ruiz hit six of last year's eight home runs during the last two months of the season. (Matt Christensen/Tulsa Drillers)

By Vincent Lara-Cinisomo / MiLB.com | April 16, 2018 10:56 PM

After starting the season with back-to-back multi-hit games in his first three outings, Keibert Ruiz hit a rough patch.

The Dodgers No. 3 prospect ended a 2-for-22 drought in resounding fashion Monday, belting a pair of two-run homers as Double-A Tulsa topped Midland, 6-4.

Gameday box score

The second-youngest player in the Texas League behind San Antonio's Fernando Tatis Jr., Ruiz lifted his first homer of the season to right field off Midland right-hander Joel Seddon in the second inning. In the fifth, he struck again against Seddon, ripping another shot to right. He drove in ninth-ranked Will Smith with both long balls.

Ruiz was well aware of his slump.

Video: Keibert Ruiz rips second homer

"I was struggling. I went through a stretch of 15 at-bats with no hits," he said. "But I was thinking too much. That's just baseball.

"I was just looking fastball (on the home runs). That's always my approach."

Baseball's No. 52 overall prospect hit a career-high eight homers last season between Class A Great Lakes and Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. Ruiz posted a slash line of .316/.361/.452, ranking third in hitting among all catchers in the Minors.

Being one of the youngest players in the Texas League is not a big deal for the 19-year-old.

"I mean, I've been in the United States three years and I'm [always] the youngest," Ruiz said. "I don't worry about that."

The switch-hitter, known to have more power from the left side, showed developing strength last season by hitting six of last year's homers in the final two months. MLB Pipeline expects him to develop at least average power with maturity and strength. Ruiz admits he feels better hitting from the left side.

"Yeah, I hit with my legs open when I hit lefty," the Venezuela native said. "When I hit righty, my leg is closed because I want to make sure I'm not late for the (fastball)."

Ruiz's outburst backed a strong outing by Dodgers No. 10 prospect Dennis Santana. The right-hander struck out 10 -- including eight in a row in one stretch -- while allowing just one hit in 4 1/3 innings. Santana walked one and left the game after reaching his pitch count. Forty-eight of his 73 pitches were strikes.

Video: Dennis Santana fans his 10th batter

Santana's eight straight strikeouts marked the most in Tulsa history, dating back to 1905. He broke the record of seven Dave Righetti set for the club in 1978. The Texas League record is 10. The Dominican Republic native has struck out 22 in 14 innings this year, exiting before the fifth inning in both appearances due to pitch count.

Sixth-ranked Dodgers prospect DJ Peters cranked a third-inning homer to left, his fourth of the year. Smith went 3-for-3 with a double and reached all five times he came to the plate.

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But Ruiz was the story Monday. The third-best catching prospect is already a top-notch hitter, but he knows he has work to do behind the plate. He's splitting time behind the plate with Smith, but adds that is not a problem for him.

"The [Dodgers] worked with me to get my arm stronger, to throw to the base," said Ruiz, who threw out just runners attempting to steal in 2017. "I prefer to play catcher, but whatever they want me to do, I don't worry about it. I always play hard."

Vince Lara-Cinisomo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @vincelara. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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