LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers named their Branch Rickey minor league players of the year on Wednesday. Top prospect Walker Buehler was named the organization’s pitcher of the year, while 19-year-old catcher Keibert Ruiz earned player of the year honors.
Buehler was the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt, but had Tommy John surgery before making his professional debut with six innings at the end of 2016. This season, the 23-year-old right-hander has a 3.36 ERA in 83 innings across three levels, with 117 strikeouts and 29 walks.
He is a starting pitcher in the long term, but could see action in the Dodgers bullpen in September when roster limits expand, with the upside of potentially pitching his way on to the postseason roster. In five relief appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City, Buehler has allowed five runs in 7 innings, but has also struck out 11 of his 35 batters faced (31.4%).
Buehler was rated by our David Hood as the top Dodgers prospect at midseason, with Ruiz ranked ninth. Buehler was ranked the No. 11 prospect in baseball at midseason by Keith Law at ESPN, and was ranked No. 17 by Baseball America, and No. 19 by Baseball Prospectus.
Ruiz didn’t turn 19 until July 20 so this is still his age-18 season, and it has been an impressive campaign. The switch-hitting catcher is hitting .329/.374/.475 with 22 doubles, eight home runs, and two triples in 92 games between Class-A Great Lakes and Class-A Rancho Cucamonga this season.
The Dodgers signed Ruiz out of Valencia, Venezuela as an international free agent in July 2014.
Both Buehler and Ruiz will be honored with these awards at Dodger Stadium before the Dodgers’ game against the Giants on Saturday, Sept. 23. Whether Buehler will be wearing a suit or a Dodgers uniform remains to be seen.