Mysteries of the Rugi

Tampa Bay Rays OF Justin Ruggiano (16)From some angles, Justin Ruggiano looks like an absolute gem.

He hits for power, can run, plays all three outfield positions, is just two years removed from a sparkling .909 OPS, draws some walks, hits right-handed, saves puppies from burning buildings, and who knows what else.

But then, as in “Dateline Mysteries,” some folks began to wonder if mayyyyyybe there was something that didn’t quiiiiiiite add up about this newly-arrived Texan who seems so ideal …

[Here’s the “Dateline Mysteries” guy reading “The Grinch” for your seasonal entertainment …]

To-wit:

  • He could be had for just a promising, but completely untested, relief prospect who’s barely scraped AA.
  • He’s going to be 33, and has just 1200 MLB plate appearances, or just about two seasons worth.
  • He’s in his fifth organization.
  • He’s been a player-to-be-named-later, been traded for a marginal catcher who never got past A-ball, and been traded for an outfielder with a career .370 SLG who was DFA’d a few months later.
  • Before that eye-catching .909 OPS (which didn’t come until age 30) his career OPS was .621 and he’d only made it into 98 games … but already had 58 strikeouts.
  • No one — and I mean No. One. — had Ruggiano pegged as the Mariners’ savior until Wednesday morning, when he suddenly was.

But sometimes suspicious minds are just that.  Sometimes the affable new husband that she’d fallen for on that cruise, already coaching Little League and organizing church dinners for the homeless … is not a serial bigamist convicted of fraud in three states.

Just usually.

The Gipper said “trust, but verify,” so we go to the numbers.

And … hmm …

Round 1 of the numbers falls in favor of Ruggiano.

On the Flowchart Profiler:

1. Does he consistently hit the ball hard in the air?  Yes.  He’s at 114 on our “Authoritative Launch Index” for making solid contact in the air.

2. Does he hit line drives for hits-in-play?  Yes.  Or at least he’s right about average on that score: 101 on our “Hits in Play Index.”

3. Does he have plate skills to draw walks and avoid strikeouts?  No.  Walks about average, but whiffs are plentiful.  An ugly 68 on our “Plate Skills Composite.”

So, in theory, we can put him in our “Second Tier” (the line drives making him more than a “one-dimensional power guy”).

And so the .777 OPS he’s posted in his last 1000 plate appearances is right in line with expectations (.797 being the mean OPS for our Second Tier).

Indeed, recent-vintage Ruggiano does look strikingly like a right-handed version of recent-vintage Michael Saunders.

  • Saunders: 111 OPS+ with 39 HR and 24.0% K-rate in his last 1200 PAs
  • Rugginao: 111 OPS+ with 37 HR and 25.7% K-rate in his last 1000 PAs

Wow.  A lot to like there.

But we can’t shake our nagging doubts

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