Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On The Fringe: Justin Ruggiano

Ruggiano has been toiling in the minors for six seasons, having several stints with the Rays in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He spent the entire 2009 season at Durham as essentially the injury replacement for the fourth/fifth outfielder that would open with an outfield injury. However the outfield remained healthy minus a few brief spells and Ruggiano had a slightly above average year (109 wRC+). Plus, the Rays were able to save his last option.

The scouting reports projects Ruggiano has potential fourth or fifth outfielder who can play above average defense at all three spots, a bat with some pop, a bat with some holes (high Ks), and speed on the base paths. The low BB/K rate is the glaring concern as that would prevent serious offense production from Ruggiano considering he is not a 20-30 homer guy.

The statistical projections give him a surprisingly excellent outlook considering he posted a .256 wOBA in a small 96 PA sample.


ZiPS 490 11 .238 .301 .369 17
CHONE 433 15 .253 .309 .389 12
Marcel 208 6 .251 .317 .412 4

Granted, these projections are for a large number of plate appearances which Ruggiano is very unlikely to achieve. That low number of walks doesn’t put him on base that much as you would like with his speed. So he has to rely on good BABIP numbers from successful batted balls via line drive or groundball in order to rack up those hits. But we all know how much BABIP fluctuates so Ruggiano’s on-base skill is reason for the Rays to not give him too many PAs in the starting lineup.


If you have been paying attention this offseason, there has been an upheaval in prizing above average defense in a ballplayer. And when looking at Ruggiano’s projections for 2010, they suggest that he can become an average to above average defensive outfielder in the Majors. I am guessing that his defensive abilities is a reason why the Rays didn’t waste his option in 2009 and kept it open for possibly a longer stint in 2010 or 2011. Although that scenario would need some injuries and/or departures in the outfield. 

Final Verdict:

These projections are merely that, projections. But I like to think of them like expectations based on past performance. His plate discipline and contact rates have to refined in order to produce acceptable production in the Majors. His worth right now is his defense and speed on the bench as a potential fourth or fifth outfielder. CHONE has projected his WAR at 1.4 next season. A surprisingly high number that has to be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons. The first one I mentioned earlier dealing with the large amount of PAs needed to reach. Second, CHONE also projects these outfielders with a 1.4 WAR in 2010 :

  • Matthew Joyce
  • Mike Cameron
  • Gregor Blanco
  • Jason Heyward
  • Willie Harris
  • Mitch Maier

Not what you would expect the Red Sox signed Cameron for or Mitch Maier being that good. Plus Matt Joyce, who will be a starting outfielder in the Majors eventually, having the same WAR as Ruggiano doesn’t seem right. Hence why these are merely projections.

Any who, at 28 years old in 2010 and with one option left, his days on the 40-man may be numbered come next winter.

Stats and projections taken from (Stats), (CHONE), (ZiPS), (Marcels), and Jeff Zimmerman’s UZR projections.


  1. I probably write about the other "fringe" players on the 40-man: E-Johnson, Thayer, and maybe Jaso.

  2. It's an excellent article. I love to see the guys on the 40-man but who probably won't make the 25-man, or the "borderline" guys.

  3. Hi, nice article by the way.

    Purely out of confusion and general interest, how did the Rays 'save' Ruggiano's final option? Did the Rays save his final option last year by not calling him up to the majors compared to the previous two seasons in '07 and '08 (I thought that this had no bearing on his optional usage as long as he spent at least 20 days on a minor league roster, whilst on the 40 man)? If this was the case then E. Johnson and Talbot would have retained an additional option. Is it anything to do with minimum professional years served?

    I'm probably just confused about the exact optional rules. Any clarification would be welcomed.


  4. Ruggiano does have an option left, but not for the reason stated. He was added to the 40-man 9/19/07 when he was called up. He was optioned to Durham 3/11/08, using up one option (he was up and down several times in 2008, but that only counts as one option because it goes by season, not each time). He was again optioned to Durham 3/25/09, using up the second. So 2010 will be his last option year, assuming he doesn't make the 25-man roster.

  5. Thank you for the explanation, I didn't realize that had been the case.