Only the most hardcore baseball fans may have noticed that the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs swapped outfielders last week, with Justin Ruggiano going to the Cubs and Brian Bogusevic heading to South Beach. Ruggiano looks likely to become Chicago’s starting center fielder, but should fantasy baseball owners pay attention to him?
Ruggiano hit 18 home runs and had 15 stolen bases for the Marlins last season, but his slash-line (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) of .222/.298/.396 was a dramatic drop-off from 2012 (.313/.374/.535). Some of that regression can be blamed on a significant correction in his batting average on balls-in-play (BABIP), which was .401 in 2012 and just .260 last year, and that can be partially be explained by the fact he hit more ground balls (44.8 percent; 41.2 percent in 2012) and fewer line drives (16.6 percent; 20.6 percent in 2012).
One positive from Ruggiano’s batted ball stats in 2013 when compared to 2012 is a virtually equal percentage of fly balls hit (38.6 percent; 38.2 percent in 2012). He also hit 15 of his 18 home runs last season on the road, and it’s also worth noting that he has seven career home runs in National League Central parks (including five of his 13 long balls in 2012).
Ruggiano’s batting average should rise some going forward, based purely on better luck and the virtual certainty the 0-for-39 slump he had last July and August will not be repeated again in his career, but his calling cards for fantasy owners will be home runs and stolen bases until further notice. He carries some risk, since he has just one full major league season under his belt and will turn 32 early next season, but with a 20-20 season a definite possibility in 2014 Ruggiano is shaping up to be a value pick for fantasy owners who don’t forget about him late on draft day.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.