The Legend of Ruggiano?

By R.J. Anderson //

It wasn’t too long ago when Sam Fuld was the darling of the baseball community. Fuld, a small speedy outfielder with an interesting back story, took the league by storm with a combination of base hits and defensive wizardry. Since then, a massive slump has left Fuld on the bench and another longtime minor league outfielder in the spotlight.

The Rays acquired Justin Ruggiano in a 2006 trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Texas A&M product looked to be a throw-in with the chance to turn into a bench player down the road, but attitude and performance issues led to him being removed from the 40-man roster in the spring. Out of options, but clearly not optimism, Ruggiano put in his work at Triple-A, hitting .301/.382/.514 with six home runs in 167 plate appearances.  Ruggiano is encroaching on 50 plate appearances and has an OPS over 1000 and three home runs to show for it so far, leading some to wonder whether they should try to ride the wave, much like they did with Fuld.

It’s a risky proposition, more so in Ruggiano’s case than Fuld, because of the timing. With the Super Two date quickly passing, Brandon Guyer—who was already recalled once this season—could be in line for a promotion. Not only that, but arguably the Rays top prospect, Desmond Jennings—should arrive in St. Petersburg within the next four weeks, and the only logical spot for him to play is left field, unless the Rays trade B.J. Upton by then.

In danger of stating the obvious: Ruggiano is not going to keep this pace up. His career Triple-A line is .289/.362/.472 and he has proved prone to the strikeout. It’s a nice story, and for a short-term fix, he could provide some power, but don’t start sewing the Legend of Ruggiano shirts just yet.

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