But this is his first legitimate chance to stake out playing time as opposed to just filling an opening on the roster. In short, the Nationals are making their catcher of the future their catcher of the present.
"We're all excited about it," manager Dave Martinez said. "We just want him to have good, consistent at-bats."
It's a deserved opportunity for Ruiz, who came over with Josiah Gray in the trade for Trea Turner and Max Scherzer about a month ago. He might have already entrenched himself as the Dodgers catcher if Will Smith hadn't beaten him to the bigs a couple of years ago. Ruiz has ranked among the top 100 prospects each of the last four years because of his defensive upside and exceptional bat-to-ball skills (his 11.7 percent strikeout rate at Triple-A would be sixth-best in the majors), but his power breakthrough this year has made him a different class of prospect entirely.
He's arriving on the right note, too, having put together back-to-back two-homer games last week. Given that one of his biggest shortcomings has now become one of his greatest strengths, I feel confident predicting he'll be a stud in the not-too-distant future.
But right away? Breaking in at catcher is particularly difficult because of all the responsibilities that come with the position, and few of this year's most noteworthy call-ups have made an immediate impact, regardless of position.
It's never a bad idea to gamble on upside, and at least in two-catcher leagues, it's probably worth it for Ruiz. But when I see Daulton Varsho, Travis d'Arnaud, Elias Diaz and Max Stassi all rostered in less than 50 percent of CBS Sports leagues, I'm thinking the majority who play in one-catcher formats already have a number of promising pickups to choose from. I would bet on any of those four making a bigger impact over the season's final month than Ruiz will.
Let's see who else you might consider adding ...
Corey Kluber SP
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #28 • Age: 35
You see what Corey Kluber did before he strained his shoulder in late May, but those numbers don't tell the whole story. The 35-year-old, who had basically missed each of the previous two seasons, was finally beginning to round into form, compiling a 2.11 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 in his final six starts. His velocity was up, and his curveball was once again generating whiffs. He's set to return from the IL Monday, just in time for a two-start week, and while it's logical to think he won't be fully stretched out yet, it may only take a turn or two before you're compelled to use him again.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #16 • Age: 30
Patrick Wisdom homered twice Friday and again on Saturday, giving him seven homers in his past nine games. You look at his season numbers and wonder how he could still be so available, but of course, it's because he hit .226 with a .698 OPS in the 40 games leading up to that nine-game stretch. Clearly, the 30-year-old's early power surge wasn't just a blip, though. His near-40 percent strikeout rate guarantees he'll run hot and cold, but if you project out his numbers, it's about a 50-homer pace. The Cubs have particularly favorable matchups against the Twins and Pirates pitching staffs this week, so you might as well ride Wisdom while he's hot.
PHI Philadelphia • #55 • Age: 26
Ranger Suarez bounced back against the one team that's gotten to him since his transition to the starting rotation. In between the two Diamondbacks starts, he went 6 2/3 strong against the Rays. His ERA still stands at 1.48, including 2.03 as a starter. He's fully stretched out now and continues to thrive with a ground-ball rate that would rank tops among qualifiers. And unlike most pitchers of that variety, he's not a total slouch for strikeouts either. If stability is what you're after, Suarez is your guy.
MIA Miami • #44 • Age: 24
This outing was Jesus Luzardo's best of the season and first good one since April, lowering his ERA to (gulp) 7.19. But beyond just the result, there were a number of changes to suggest the rookie is headed in the right direction. He was sporting glasses again after ditching them earlier this season and was working with veteran catcher Sandy Leon for the first time. The most substantive difference, though, was his pitch selection. He relied on his changeup, normally his fourth most-used pitch, more than anything else, throwing it 31 percent of the time, and it was responsible for seven of his 15 swinging strikes. The other eight came on his curveball, with his fastball being used more as a change of pace. He's worth a flier just in case this outing proves to be a legitimate turning port.
COL Colorado • #21 • Age: 28
Now a dozen starts into his supposed hot streak, it's getting pretty hard to dismiss Kyle Freeland. I wondered if he was just benefiting from good home run luck, but he served up two at the Dodgers on Friday and still delivered a quality start. If anything, he seems to be getting better, his whiffs rising as he grows increasingly comfortable relying on a steady diet of breaking balls. He threw his curveball and slider a combined 53 percent of the time Friday and has built his turnaround on those two pitches. I remain skeptical, but we got some use out of Austin Gomber when he went on a similar run earlier this year and can do the same with Freeland.
Connor Joe LF
COL Colorado • #9 • Age: 29
Overall, Connor Joe has a .365 on-base percentage, which is impressive in its own right even though it doesn't measure up to the .400-plus mark he delivered in his last three minor-league seasons. But check out his numbers at home. Like many Rockies hitters before him, his attributes are amplified there, but because 60 percent of his at-bats so far have come on the road, Fantasy Baseballers haven't fully caught on yet. Well, the Rockies return home for four games this week following a three-game series against the Rangers' miserable pitching staff. Their leadoff hitter may soon make himself unreachable.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #18 • Age: 29
Believe it or not, Frank Schwindel's .310 batting average and .922 OPS so far are being skewed by his 3-for-20 (.150) performance with the Athletics earlier this year. As you can see from the numbers above, he's been an absolute monster since joining the Cubs about a month ago and kept it going this weekend with a multi-hit game Friday and a home run Sunday. HIs current pace is of course unsustainable, but he was accustomed to hitting for a high average in the minors. Between his 19.7 percent strikeout rate and 23.3 percent line-drive rate, he seems poised to do so in the majors as well while also hitting fly balls at a high enough rate (43.0 percent) to impact the home run category.
Glenn Otto SP
TEX Texas • #49 • Age: 25
A 25-year-old who between injuries and the lost 2020 season hadn't gotten a chance to flesh out his arsenal yet, Glenn Otto has been one of the biggest gainers in all the minors this year, unveiling a wicked slider en route to 12.6 K/9 between two levels. He got to put it to the test against the Astros on Friday and wound up two-hitting the majors' best offense over five innings, striking out seven and walking none. He relied heavily on the slider, throwing it as many times as his fastball, and of course needs to be vetted further. But if you want to speculate on an intriguing arm, he would seem to fit the bill.