Earning a day off on Monday, outfielder Justin Ruggiano has been off to a solid start in his first season with the Chicago Cubs. In a transition year in the Windy City, Ruggiano is paying off early returns for the Cubs after being acquired in an offseason trade with the Miami Marlins. Can the Cubs expect this type of production from the outfielder all season long?
Hoping to continue his trend of playing more games than the previous year, Ruggiano’s first priority for the 2014 season will be to stay healthy and on the field every day. When healthy, the potential is there for the soon-to-be 32-year old outfielder. Thus far in camp, Ruggiano is batting .583 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
In the small sample size, he leads the Cubs in RBIs, home runs and hits. Ruggiano projects to be the starting center fielder for the Cubs and will get the majority of the playing time over Ryan Sweeney if he can continue with the hot hand at the plate. Acquired for his right hand hitting ability, it will be more lightning caught in a bottle for the Cubs’ front office as they continue to make over the North side outlook on the future.
For the most part, the Cubs’ operation of buying low and turning things into a profit as worked out over the course of the last few seasons. Chicago has turned the trick with players like Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, and Paul Mahalom. Whether or not Ruggiano will fit into the long-term plans or become another trade-deadline piece to turnover is unclear at this time. He is arbitration eligible for the next few seasons in Chicago.
The Cubs also have young players like Albert Almora and Jorge Soler waiting in the wings to become a part of the next generation to protect the outfield ivy at Wrigley Field. But until that time, it is Ruggiano who has the opportunity to showcase what he can do. Playing his home games in Chicago provides the potential to showcase his power on offense. Look for lightning to strike from Ruggiano in the form of around 20 home runs, 55 RBIs and 15 stolen bases this year. He is off to a good start now and just may be able to provide good things for the Cubs all season long in 2014.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.