The catcher position was a key focus for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the offseason, as they ultimately addressed the void left by Yasmani Grandal’s free agency departure with the acquisition of Russell Martin from the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Dodgers opted for reuniting Martin over other catching options due to his short-term commitment; With one year remaining on his contract, he will serve as a temporary stopgap behind home plate to pair with Austin Barnes, who looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2018 season.
This will allow Los Angeles to gradually usher in their future at catcher, led by Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith, who both checked in on multiple top prospect lists this winter.
Ruiz arguably boasts the most upside at just 20 years old and reportedly was coveted in trade talks for Miami Marlins All-Star J.T. Realmuto. But with just four professional seasons under his belt, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts doesn’t foresee a potential MLB promotion for Ruiz in 2019, via Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA:
Roberts on Keibert Ruiz seeing time in @MLB this year. Said it’s unlikely and they are looking at the longer view with him. Said Will Smith could catch in @MLB right now but needs improvement offensively. #Dodgers #SpringTraining
— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) February 12, 2019
Ruiz spent the 2018 season with Double-A Tulsa, where he appeared in 101 games before receiving some reps in the Arizona Fall League to conclude his campaign.
Ruiz will presumably see time for both the Drillers and Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, as another strong showing will likely put him in position to reach the Majors by 2020.
Another top catching prospect in the organization may ultimately see time in the Majors this season, as Smith is a prime candidate to eventually be called up at some point.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman recently praised Smith’s defensive work behind home plate, but noted that his bat still needs to develop in order to warrant a potential promotion.