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Dodgers Dugout: Who is Keibert Ruiz?

Keibert Ruiz in Feb. 2018.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and don’t look now, but the Dodgers have the best record in the National League.

My inbox was flooded with emails Sunday with one question: What can you tell us about Keibert Ruiz?

Ruiz was signed out of Venezuela at age 16 by the Dodgers for the paltry sum of $100,000. In five minor-league seasons, Ruiz, now 22, has hit .299/.351/.420. Let’s look at some strengths and weaknesses:

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Strength

Does not strike out: Ruiz has struck out 150 times in 1,580 plate appearances in the minors. That is really good for such a young player. He certainly knows how to put the barrel on the ball.

Weakness

Does not walk: In fact, he is so good at making contact, he rarely walks with only 104.

Weakness

No power: Don’t let Sunday’s homer fool you, Ruiz has not been a power hitter in the minors. He has 29 minor-league homers, with 27 of those coming when he bats left-handed. Ruiz appears content to just put the ball in play rather than to drive the ball.

Strength

Defense: According to most scouting reports online, he is a good pitch framer and good at blocking balls in the dirt. Being a good pitch framer leads to the scourge of passed balls. But being a catcher in the minors when you are 16, 17 and 18 also leads to the scourge of passed balls.

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But remember, he’s only 22. He has great potential to improve on his weaknesses. He’s not the second coming of Mike Piazza or Roy Campanella, but if he could improve his walk rate, he could be the second coming of Mike Scioscia.

Just for fun, I went to baseball-reference.com and tried to find out which catchers in major league history put up similar numbers to Ruiz’s .299/.351/.420. I realize comparing major league numbers to minor league numbers is a bit unfair, but like I said, this was for fun. The catcher who put up the most similar numbers? Thurman Munson, who hit .292/.346/.410 in his career. And if Ruiz somehow turns into the next Munson, there won’t be much room to complain.

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Not to be a second-guesser, but ...

Edwin Rios pulled a hamstring legging out a double during Sunday’s game. Everyone I know who was watching thought it looked bad. The trainer and Dave Roberts ran onto the field to talk to him, and Rios immediately started shaking his head no, as if he didn’t want to be taken out. Roberts and the trainer left him in, and when Matt Beaty singled, Rios barely made it to home plate. In fact, he was so hampered, that Beaty was tagged for the third out trying to get to second before Rios crossed home plate, nullifying the run. Rios came out of the game at that point.

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I wasn’t out there, and don’t know what was said, but it’s the job of the manager to save the player from himself, as most players won’t want to come out of a game. In a short 60-game season, avoiding injuries is crucial. Rios should have come out of the game when he limped into second.

Who’s in the playoffs?

Remember, this season 16 teams make the postseason, eight in each league. The three division winners, the three second-place teams and the remaining two teams with the best record make the playoffs in each league. They are seeded as follows: 1-3 (Division winners in order of best record; 4-6 (second-place teams in order of best record; 7-8 (remaining two teams in order of best record). No. 1 will play No. 8 in the first round, No. 2 vs. No. 7, etc. First round is best of three, with all three games played at the home stadium of the team with the better seeding. As of Sunday, here’s the NL seedings:

1. Dodgers, 16-7
2. Chicago Cubs, 13-6
3. Miami, 9-6
4. Colorado, 13-8
5. Atlanta, 13-10
6. St. Louis, 4-4
7. Milwaukee, 10-10
8. San Diego, 11-11

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record (if applicable). The next tiebreaker is intra-division record. The next is record in the final 20 division games (plus one until the tie is broken).

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You’ll notice something strange above: The Cardinals have played only eight games, while other teams have played as many as 23. As you know, the Cardinals stopped playing after July 29 because many members of their team tested positive for the coronavirus. They resumed playing Saturday. The plan, as of now, is for them to play 11 doubleheaders between now and the end of the season so they can catch up. By the time the season ends, the hope is that they will have played 58 games compared to 60 for the other teams. So, what happens if the Cardinals finish percentage points ahead of a team and knock them out of a playoff spot because they have played fewer games? Well, that’s too bad for that other team. This has happened before during strike-shortened seasons. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.

Of course, the odds of the top eight teams remaining in this order by the time the season is over is extremely small, but, does anyone look forward to playing San Diego in a best-of-three first round series? Me either.

Your first Dodgers memory

I have thousands of responses, so if I don’t get to yours right away, don’t worry, I will eventually. If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it may run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence, tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. And remember, it’s first Dodgers memory, not favorite Dodgers memory. Thanks.

Marvin J. Wolf of Asheville. N.C.: I was honorably discharged from the Army on April 4, 1962, and drove my ’55 Ford convertible back to my family in Los Angeles, arriving six days later. The next morning my best friend from high school, Ken Smith, called and said he had tickets to the Dodgers game. (His father was a big shot at a cosmetics company.) We went April 11, the day after Dodger Stadium opened for business. Our seats were in the nosebleed section far down the right-field line, but so what -- a new team, a fabled franchise, my first Dodger dogs and of course, great sight lines, so we could see the whole game unfold. I was hooked. A Dodgers fan for life.

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Rod Lehnertz: For me (and my brother Dave) it all began in 1971, when our family took a trip from Iowa to California to visit relatives. Our uncle Jerry wrote a letter to the Dodgers explaining that he had purchased authentic Dodger uniforms for his 6 and 7 year-old nephews and hoped they might be able to meet a Dodger or two when at the game. The Dodgers did one better!

He was given a letter to present to the dugout officer before game time. Suddenly we found ourselves in the Dodger dugout and on the field during batting practice! We met all the Dodgers (including our favorite player Willie Davis, who stopped taking swings to take a picture and fix my brother’s broken jacket zipper, and a group of 3 rookies…Garvey, Cey and Russell), and then a picture was taken of us with a gentleman I didn’t know at the time … one Vin Scully!

Rod and Dave Lehnertz meet Vin Scully
(Courtesy of Rod Lehnertz)

Years later and for my 40th birthday, my brother got a hold of that photo when he was attending an event that included Vin. The 1971 picture was signed by Vin and has become my most precious possession (if we have a fire, as soon as I get the photo out of the house, I will go look for my family!).

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By the way, the Dodgers lost to the hated SF Giants that day and I have been told the two Lehnertz brothers left Chavez Ravine crying! Many Dodger-blue tears (of joy and sorrow) have been shed since then!

These names look familiar

What players on the 2019 Dodgers are doing this season with other teams (through Saturday’s games):

Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta, .333/.340/.604, 146 OPS+

Yimi Garcia, Miami, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.2 IP (On 10-day IL)

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Jedd Gyorko, Milwaukee, .286/.348/.619, 156 OPS+

Rich Hill, Minnesota, 1-0, 0.00 ERA (on 10-day IL with shoulder fatigue)

Kenta Maeda, Minnesota, 3-0, 2.66 ERA

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto, 1-1, 4.05 ERA

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Casey Sadler, Chicago Cubs, 0-0, 3.18 ERA

Alex Verdugo, Boston, .273/.333/.515, 125OPS+

Up next

Monday, Seattle (Justin Dunn) at Dodgers (Ross Stripling), 6:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Tuesday, Seattle (Marco Gonzales*) at Dodgers (Tony Gonsolin), 4 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

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Wednesday, Dodgers (TBD) at Seattle (Tajuan Walker), 6:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Thursday, Dodgers (TBD) at Seattle (Yusei Kikuchi*). 4:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

*-Left-handed

And finally

Game 4 of the 1978 NLCS between the Dodgers and Phillies. Watch it here.

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Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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