Drillers' Ruiz proves dual power threat

Dodgers No. 2 prospect homers from both sides, plates four runs

Keibert Ruiz has nine homers this season, surpassing last year's career high in 36 fewer games. (Joshua Tjiong/MiLB.com)

By Josh Horton / MiLB.com | July 12, 2018 11:32 PM

What Keibert Ruiz is doing for Double-A Tulsa at 19-year-old is impressive enough. The Drillers' catching phenom is always a threat to put together a performance that can "wow" his coaches, teammates and opponents. 

Thursday was one of those games.

The Dodgers No. 2 prospect homered from both sides of the plate, doubled, drove in four runs and scored three times in the Drillers' 14-3 runaway win against Northwest Arkansas at Arvest Ballpark. 

"I just can't say enough good things about him, with his maturity and how he's developed as a hitter and just as a player," Tulsa manager Scott Hennessey said. "The guy just has such great feel for the game and it's so impressive to watch the things that he can do every night.

"At 19 years old, he could be a freshman in college ... and this guy's performing at the Double-A level like he's a veteran. It's really fun to watch."

Video: Drillers' Ruiz homers from left side

From the right side, MLB.com's No. 44 overall prospect hammered a first-pitch offering from Emilio Ogando over the fence in left field in the second inning -- going back-to-back with 22nd-ranked Drew Jackson. In the fifth, Ruiz lifted a ball over the wall in left-center off right-hander Grant Gavin. 

The Valencia, Venezuela native said it's the first time he's accomplished that feat. 

"I feel good, just went to the plate to make a good swing," he said. "[I] see the ball well, make a good decision and that happens. I feel really good about that." 

Ruiz, who also walked and scored in the fourth, drove in a pair of runs with a bases-loaded double to right in the eighth. 


Gameday box score


He has held his own at plate in the Texas League, hitting .251 with a .712 OPS and nine homers this season. Ruiz, who will turn 20 on July 20, is the second-youngest player on the circuit behind San Antonio's Fernando Tatis Jr.. Ruiz has already surpassed his total of eight long balls from last season between Class A Great Lakes and Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. 

"I think he's handled it really good. He's got great bat-to-ball skills," Hennessey said. "I think what he's learned to do over the last two or three weeks is he's learning to drive the ball a lot more. More lift to his swing, he feels more comfortable with that. He works so hard in the cages and in on-field [batting practice] and it's showing right now. He's way more aggressive in the box than even early in the year. He's just comfortable now." 

Signed for $140,000 out of Venezuela at 16 years old in 2014, Ruiz has developed the reputation as a terrific receiver and pitch caller with an incredible arm.

"What's impressive about it is he's just got great feel," Hennessey said. "He's got great instincts and that's what he goes with. He studies good on the computer, but more importantly he's a great instincts and feel guy and he goes with what he sees and he does a phenomenal job." 

Video: Drillers' Ruiz homers from right side

Ruiz is splitting repetitions behind the plate with Will Smith, the Dodgers No. 8 prospect, and it's been a symbiotic relationship between the two. 

"They kind of feed off each other and they help each other so much," Hennessey said. "They're highly touted prospects, but they're great teammates and they want each other to succeed. It's just been really fun to watch them. It's actually fun for the staff to watch these guys help each other and go about their business. Honestly, we just stay out of their way." 

Ruiz is aided by his elder catching companion's ability to provide game-calling wisdom. He says that facet of the game has improved leaps and bounds since his arrival in Tulsa. 

"It's been great to have him," Ruiz said. "He helps me a lot with the pitchers [and] communication. Very good guy. He works very hard and I learn about that from him. It's great to have another catcher like that working with me like him. Last year, I felt like [my pitch calling] was not very good. This year, I feel more comfortable with the pitchers and communication with them. Like I said, Will Smith helps me a lot and I feel very grateful for him and just learn about everything."

MiLB include

Fourth-ranked Dodgers prospect Yusniel Diaz, No. 85 overall, had four hits, including a pair of doubles, with two runs scored. His first two bagger was in the sixth, a drive to right field on a 3-2 count and his second came on a 2-1 offering in the ninth to right. 

"[Diaz is] working on things, squaring the ball and staying middle of the field," Hennessey said. "Like his last at-bat tonight, he drove a ball down the right-field line. For him, that's how you know when he's going good, when he's in the middle of the field. That's who he is." 

Hennessey also lauded Diaz's work in center field this season for the Drillers.

"I think it's kind of going unnoticed," the manager said. "Last night was phenomenal. Showing plus range to both gaps. ... He's worked really hard to get better defensively and he's a plus defender right now in center field." 

Dodgers No. 25 prospect Luke Raley uncorked his 14th homer of the season. Smith had his four-game homer streak snapped, but he did plate a run with a sixth-inning double. 

Royals No. 7 prospect Kelvin Gutierrez went 3-for-4 with two runs scored for the Naturals. 

Josh Horton is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @joshhorton22 This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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