Carlos Ruiz has spent seven seasons in the Phillies' minor league system, starting with a year in their Dominican Summer League program. With a breakout season, featuring a career-high 17 homeruns in 2004, Ruiz established himself as a player who may be able to help at the major league level before too long. While his power numbers at AAA Scranton weren't nearly as good as in his 2004 season at AA Reading, his on-base percentage and average were above where they were at Reading.
Some believe that Ruiz could even handle everyday duties in the majors and that he could be ready to assume that role now. Others believe he needs some time to adjust at the major league level and should serve as the backup to Mike Lieberthal, while still others believe he needs more work at the AAA level. That decision is one that will be made in camp this spring as Ruiz battles for a backup position with veteran catcher Sal Fasano.
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Acquired: Signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent on December 4, 1998.
Batting and Power: Where did those 17 homeruns come from in 2004? Considering that Ruiz has just 22 homeruns over his other six minor league seasons, you have to assume that he's not going to put up those sort of power numbers. The Phillies did originally figure on a little more power from Ruiz, but considering that he has put up other good numbers throughout his career, they can live with the lack of homeruns. They never figured on him leading any league in homeruns, but were hoping for 10 or 12 a year. Ruiz has a good eye at the plate and generally puts the ball in play.
Baserunning and Speed: He's a catcher. What more needs to be said. Ruiz rarely embarrasses himself on the bases, but won't steal many bases. Most of them that he gets come as a result of the element of surprise. Running is just not a strong part of Ruiz' game.
Defense: This is where Ruiz will make his money. He's got a good arm and throws out a high percentage of runners who attempt to steal against him. He also blocks balls in the dirt well and knows how to handle pitchers. On average, he commits only about five errors per year and more than makes up for that by blocking pitches and throwing out runners. He's played a few games in the outfield and played two games at first base in 2005, but he's not going to see much time at any position other than catcher.
Projection: Ruiz will be given a shot to beat out newly signed veteran Sal Fasano for a major league job backing up Mike Lieberthal. It's going to be an uphill battle, but it's not out of the question that he could win the spot and make his major league debut. Ruiz will be caught in that age old argument of whether it's better to have a young player in the majors, getting just a few at bats here and there or playing everyday at the AAA level. With Lieberthal likely needing a good amount of off days and Charlie Manuel not being afraid to make him take them, the backup catcher on the Phillies should see a decent amount of playing time, making it worthwhile for Ruiz to be with the major league club.
Comparison: Ruiz was drawing a lot of comparisons to Bobby Estalella during the '04 season, but if you consider those homeruns somewhat of a fluke, then that comparison doesn't really hold up. Ruiz is better defensively than Mike Lieberthal, but will probably fall short of Lieby's offensive numbers when all is said and done.