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It's rare to be talking about a guy who has the potential to produce a 20/20 season that could literally end up on waivers in half the mixed leagues out there (if not more). I've previously written about one such player – the Mariners' Michael Saunders (Player Profile)– and this piece will focus on another fella who has a decent enough skill set that it's pretty surprising so many folks just don't seem to be interested in at all. That player is Justin Ruggiano of the Cubs who, according to the NFBC, has an ADP in the 320's.
Playing for the Rays and then Marlins doesn't exactly do much for your street cred in fantasy baseball, we all know that, so it's hardly a shock that people don't really have a handle on who Ruggiano is. Part of the reason that Ruggiano isn't drafted is that literally half the folks who play fantasy baseball probably have never seen him take an at-bat. That will change this season with the Cubs since WGN television seems to be in just about every household at this point.
Ruggiano will be in for a battle for playing time in the outfield with the Cubs. Well, some are selling it like that though I'm not so sure that is accurate. Players in the mix for time in the outfield for the ole Cubbies this season include the following fellas.
Ryan Sweeney. He's got a great stroke but he has never learned to lift the ball (20 career homers) and hasn't had 270 at-bats in a season since 2010. Hard to think he's going go to be able to stay healthy and productive long enough to get even 350 at-bats. He's best served as a part time bench player, and hopefully the Cubs are aware of that fact.
Junior Lake was solid as a rookie but he only hit .284 with six homer and 16 RBIs in 64 games. That's not exactly awe inspiring stuff. He also struck out 68 times, had a pathetic 0.19 BB/K rate, and lived off two numbers he has no chance at repeating: .377 BABIP and 27.8 percent line drive rate. Lake is being overdrafted this year (his ADP is 311). Just the way it is folks.
Nate Schierholtz is a great defender and a solid overall player, and a great guy (we once shared a laugh over an autograph as we compared our favorite taco joints – Del Taco was mentioned prominently). Still, Nate only hit .251 last season, is a career .265 batter, and has never stole more than seven bases in a season. He also tossed up there a terrible .301 OBP last season, has never learned to take a walk, and it's pretty damn difficult to envision him socking more than the 21 homers he hit last season.
The fact of the matter is that Ruggiano should be able to find 400 at-bats for sure, with 450 very likely. I'm even thinking 500 is possible, especially if Lake really struggles or Schierholtz is dealt. If that happens Ruggiano becomes a very interesting mixed league option.
This is hillarious. If you don't watch Archer you are missing out.
Per 450 at-bats in his career Ruggiano has averaged 19 homers and 16 steals. Not bad right? Now he may have faults like Michael Saunders, that's why both guys have ADP's in the 300's, but at the draft day cost there is plenty of room for a nice return on investment.
Ruggiano isn't exactly a walk machine, and since he strikes out too much he's only been able to post a 0.36 BB/K rate the past two years. Not much hope he significantly improves upon that level either. The result is that he's a .251 career hitter with a .315 OBP. Those are the type of numbers you often get from a 3/4 big league outfielder. Yes he hit .313 in 2012 but that was a BABIP fueled run thanks to a .401 mark. He ain't doing that again.
What Ruggiano could do would be to set a career-high in homers (18 last season). Ruggiano hits roughly a league average number of fly balls (37 percent for his career), but in each of the past three seasons his HR/F ratio has been over 14 percent. That's not a stupendous number but it is about 40 percent better than the big league average and signals that 20 homers is totally doable if he gets those 450+ at-bats.
You don't fall into the 300's in ADP if you've got it all figured out. Best case scenario for Ruggiano is that he plays nearly every day, goes 20/20, and ends up being an excellent draft day selection. Worst case he hits .220, struggles to get 400 at-bats, and ends up being someone you only want to be turning to as a depth outfielder in an NL-only league. I'm thinking he gets those 450 to 500 at-bats and does something significant which makes him a strong outfielder #6 addition at the draft table in mixed leagues.
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