Top Prospect #30: Carlos Ruiz

The Phillies always knew that they had an excellent defensive catcher in Carlos Ruiz. Last season, they saw an offensive display that they hadn't seen from him in years past and they liked what they saw very much. Now, all he has to do is repeat his performance at the AAA level.

Carlos Ruiz set career marks in almost every offensive category in 2004. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Ruiz became a bona fide major league prospect at a time when the Phillies thought there wasn't a catching prospect in the organization. Ruiz' timing is near perfect. After all, Todd Pratt won't last forever as Mike Lieberthal's backup and is signed only to a one-year deal. Ruiz will start the year at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre in 2005 and could be ready to take over for Pratt by the start of the 2006 season.

Nobody figures that Ruiz is going to be the next coming of Johnny Estrada. In fact, whether he'll ever have the makings of an everyday major league player - much less an all-star - is up for debate. Then again, coming into last season, Ruiz was barely even thought of as a potential major league backup. Now, he'll be in major league camp and for more reasons than to just give the Phillies an extra warm body to warm up pitchers. No, Carlos Ruiz is starting to get a look.

If there was anything that was going to get Ruiz to the majors, it was his defense. While his offensive numbers got him the recognition he deserved in 2004, his defense remained stellar. If Ruiz continues to put it all together, it's going to be interesting to see how far he can climb.

2000 Gulf Coast 1 22 .277 38 130 11 36 7 1 3 3 9 9
2001 Lakewood 4 32 .261 73 249 21 65 14 3 5 3 10 27
2002 Clearwater 5 32 .213 92 342 35 73 18 3 3 1 18 30
2003 Clearwater 2 9 .315 15 54 5 17 0 0 2 2 2 5
2003 Reading 2 16 .266 52 169 22 45 6 0 1 1 12 15
2004 Reading 17 50 .284 101 349 45 99 15 2 8 4 22 37
Career 35 196 .266 431 1519 178 404 75 14 25 8 82 134

Acquired: Signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent, December 4, 1998.

Batting and Power: For the first time in his professional career, Ruiz showed true power in 2004. His 17 homeruns nearly doubled his career total and were the most by a Reading catcher since Bobby Estalella hit 21 in 1995. Perhaps the most impressive part of the power surge was that Ruiz' strikeout rate stayed pretty steady. He has a solid eye at the plate and will be patient. His career average (.266) is right about where the Phillies figure he should be able to hit in the majors if all goes well.

Baserunning and Speed: Like most catchers, Ruiz doesn't have blazing speed. He does have some ability to run though and stole a career high eight bases in 2004. Don't look for the Phillies to emphasize that part of his game.

Defense: If there was anything that sustained Ruiz through the minors, it was his defense. He routinely throws out about 37% of the runners trying to steal against him, or about three or four points above the average. He has made the All-Star teams in the Florida State League and again in the Eastern League. The FSL selection was primarily based on defensive ability.

Projection: Ruiz isn't likely to be one of those guys that you want to put behind a major league plate for a long stretch of time. He does handle pitchers well and provides solid defense, but holes will be exposed if he were to be there too long; at least that's the way things stand right now. If he can do at AAA what he did last season at AA, the approach may change. He has solid major league backup catcher written all over him.

ETA: If the numbers at Scranton are anywhere near what he did at Reading, Ruiz will get a September audition. He could even hit the majors if the Phillies have an injury problem with either Mike Lieberthal or Todd Pratt this season. Odds are that if all goes well, the Phillies will look for Ruiz to become their major league backup in 2006.

Comparison: Ruiz is on the small side - 5' 10", 195 - and physically resembles Mike Lieberthal. His game is a lot like Lieberthal's, although the power numbers are new to Ruiz' resume. Defensively, he's stronger than Lieberthal. Some scouts see Bobby Estalella in Ruiz. That comparison could be because of the season that Ruiz had at Reading in '04 compared to Estalella's '95 season with the R-Phils.

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