Despite losing a decent chunk of time near the end of the season due to injury, Justin Ruggiano added a valuable asset to the Chicago Cubs lineup in 2014, giving first-year skipper Ricky Renteria a right-handed corner outfielder with some ‘thump’ in his bat.
Appearing in 81 games, the 32-year-old batted .281/.337/.429, adding six home runs and driving in 28 runs. He was by no means an offensive force for Chicago, but did his job fairly well at the plate – slightly better than the league average, in fact, posting an oWAR of 0.7. However, other measures, including his RAA (-10) and WAR (-0.4) suggest he’s essentially a league average player, but little more than that.
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Defensively, it was much of the same for the former late-round pick, as he made just one error in 117 chances in the Chicago outfield, where he appeared in all three positions, which resulted in a .991 fielding percentage. However, in terms of defensive runs saved above average (Rdrs), Ruggiano posted a -10 mark.
After a sluggish start to the season, which was his first as a member of the Cubs, Ruggiano heated up down the stretch, batting .338/.350/.486 in the month of July with half of his RBI total for the season (14) and continuing to be solid in August, with a line of .283/.327/.435. He missed the final month of the season due to injury, curtailing what could have been a solid 2014 season, all things considered.
His hot start to the month of July actually made his first-half numbers better than post-All-Star Break, which was worth taking note of. That being said, missing the season’s final month curtailed the number of at-bats he had down the stretch, which may have contributed to the 33-point difference (.292 to .257) in his average from the first to second half.
Ruggiano was best-suited for the number two spot in the Cubs lineup, where he batted a robust .327/.395/.475 across 27 games – his most at any spot in the batting order. By contrast, when Renteria batted him fifth, where he appeared for 13 games – his second-most-often spot apart from the number two slot, his numbers fell off drastically – .233/.265/.349.
The former Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays outfielder could very well be a contributor again on the 2015 Cubs roster, but much as was the case in 2014, don’t expect much more than a player who, all-around, is about league average. He has the capability to get hot, but consistency will be a focal point moving forward.