In my last “Phillies Pheatured Player,” I targeted Ryan Howard and his recent prosperity since his demotion to the bench. Carlos Ruiz has been the backup catcher so far this season for the Phillies, and he also has found recent success in this role.
During the 2015 season, Cameron Rupp started to see more and more time behind the plate. Carlos Ruiz played 58 games in the first half, but just 28 in the second.
With the emergence of Andrew Knapp and the acquisition of Jorge Alfaro, the next generation of catching is beginning to take shape.
As we headed into 2016, it became clear Rupp would take charge in the starting role, and Ruiz would be the backup. While Ruiz is known for his rapport with his pitchers, his .211/.290/.285 hitting split from 2015 didn’t provide much of an argument for Ruiz to stay in the starting lineup.
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Like Howard, Ruiz found new life this year at the plate. His OPS is at .744, the highest since his 2012 All-Star campaign. In just 45 games this year, Ruiz is worth a full win above replacement on offense,
More specifically, the fuel for Ruiz’s solid numbers this year have come in the last two months. Coming into July, Ruiz had a measly .218 batting average in 125 plate appearances. In 35 July plate appearances, Ruiz broke out with a .543 OBP and wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) of 189. He’s slightly cooled off in August, with his average falling from .407 to .375. Both numbers are still strong, so there isn’t much to complain about.
In addition to improved offense, Ruiz is just as valuable this season on defense as well. Chooch is worth a full win above replacement behind the plate as well on offense. While it isn’t one of Ruiz’s better defensive seasons, he’s also has fewer games under his belt this year. If you adjust each of Ruiz’s season to a 162-game basis, this year would rank among his better seasons.
Carlos Ruiz, like his longtime teammate Ryan Howard, is in the final year of his current contract. With several young catchers poised to be in the majors by next year, Ruiz doesn’t seem to be long for the Phillies.
While Ruiz may not have any long-term value left, he could still provide short-term value for a team needing a veteran catching presence. One National League scout described Ruiz as a “cheaper alternative” to Jonathan Lucroy as the trade deadline neared. Even with that deadline past, rumors continue to circle that Ruiz could still be on the move. Ruiz may manage to fetch a prospect for the Phillies, even if it isn’t a particularly shiny one.
Like Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz is nearing the end of his tenure in Philadelphia. While Ruiz’s solid numbers this year may not warrant an extra season in pinstripes, he could still end up a contending team for the last month of the season. Ruiz could help a young, talented pitching staff down the stretch with his experience, poise, and offense.