Prospect #44: C Carlos Ruiz

If there is one position that the Phillies are sorely lacking in prospects, it's catching. With Mike Lieberthal slowly getting up there in age, the Phillies have absolutely no heir apparent to the major league catching job. The only possibility was Johnny Estrada who was traded away to get Kevin Millwood in December of 2002. One possibility to progress to the majors is Carlos Ruiz.

The Phillies found Carlos Ruiz in Panama and signed him to an amateur contract in December of 1998 at the age of 19. Actually, the Phillies believed him to be 18, but Ruiz was actually born a year earlier than the Phillies originally thought. To help Ruiz adjust to professional baseball, the Phillies decided not to bring him stateside and decided instead to have him play in the Dominican Summer League in 1999. Ruiz seemed immediately up to the challenge and hit .305 and showed the defensive skills that had been the main reason the Phillies were attracted to Ruiz.

 

Finally, the Phillies brought Ruiz into minor league camp in 2000 and kept him at their Florida base, putting him in the Gulf Coast League. The climb from there has been almost predictable. The Phillies haven't pushed Ruiz and because of his young age, haven't had to push him. The only minor delay in his progress was at the start of the 2003 season when the Phillies had him start the season at Clearwater, where he played the entire 2002 season. Ruiz didn't waste a lot of time at Clearwater in 2003, he soon showed that he was ready to move along to the challenges of AA baseball.

 

The Phillies have gotten more offense out of Ruiz than they might have originally thought. Ruiz had dazzled the Phillies brass with his glove work when they were scouting him. His bat looked good, but there were a lot of holes in his approach to hitting. They weren't quite sure how much they could get out of him offensively, but knew that his defense was strong enough to make him worth having in their minor league system.

 

Ruiz has been challenged at times offensively. He has actually responded pretty well and has put up a career .261 average in the minors and that was hurt by a .213 average at Clearwater in 2002. If you could erase that season, Ruiz would have a .277 minor league average. That's right about at the upper edge of where the Phillies figured he might be able to be. After working with him, some scouts believe that he may still develop further and could become at least a decent .270 type hitter, but doubt that his small – 5' 10" 185 pound – frame will ever develop much power. One thing that Ruiz has that will help him is good strike zone discipline and patience at the plate.

 

Ruiz' small build was one of the reasons that other teams shied away from signing him. The Phillies have never let that bother them when it comes to catchers. After all, Mike Lieberthal is only an even six feet tall and goes in the neighborhood of 190 pounds. If Ruiz can develop any part of Lieberthal's hitting style, the Phillies would be very happy. They already believe that defensively, Ruiz will be stronger than Lieberthal.

 

Look for the Phillies to continue their cautious approach with Ruiz. He will be just a few months past his 25th birthday when the 2004 season starts. It's likely that Ruiz will start the season at AA Reading before moving along to AAA sometime during the season.

 

Carlos Ruiz' Career Stats

 

Year/Team

HR

RBI

AVG

SB

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

BB

KO

1999 DSL

(Rookie)

4

35

.305

3

60

226

39

69

15

5

9

11

2000 GCL

(Rookie)

1

22

.277

3

38

130

11

36

7

1

9

9

2001 Lakewood

(Low A)

4

32

.261

5

73

249

21

65

14

3

10

27

2002 Clearwater

(High A)

5

32

.213

3

92

342

35

73

18

3

18

30

2003 Clearwater

(High A)

2

9

.315

2

15

54

5

17

0

0

2

5

2003 Reading

(AA)

2

16

.266

1

52

169

22

45

6

0

12

15

Minor League Totals

18

146

.261

17

330

1170

133

305

60

12

60

97

 


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