Carlos Ruiz: An Oldie But A Goodie

Drew Hallowell

Carlos Ruiz is up next on our continued coverage of the catcher position for the upcoming fantasy baseball season and for good reason. The soon-to-be 34 year old backstop has spent the last three seasons making a name for himself with the stick and has become a solid fantasy contributor in the process.

After posting a break out season in 2010 that saw him hit .302/.400/.447 with eight home runs and drive in 55 runs many thought that was the peak of Carlos Ruiz's production and who could blame them? Prior to 2010 Ruiz had been nothing more than a part-time backstop who lived in the .250/.335/.410 range with anywhere between 3-9 home runs all while being on the wrong side of the magical age of 27. Waiver wire fodder at worst and even in the deepest of leagues a perennial back-up at best. He proved his naysayers wrong in 2011 by again posting a solid campaign that saw him play a career high 132 games and post a strong .283/.371/.383 with a modest six home runs. Nothing flashy but still solid. He came out guns blazing in 2012 and mashed 16 home runs along with an outstanding .325/.394/.540 slash line along with 68 RBI's in only 114 games despite missing time with a nagging foot injury. Ruiz will have many fantasy players dreaming about the season that could have been had he not gotten hurt and hoping he can repeat his success in 2013.

So what can we expect in 2013?

Here are three things that I think Ruiz will be able to bring to the fantasy table in 2013 and beyond (at least over the next two seasons):

1.) Excellent On-Base Percentage: Ruiz has shown over the last three seasons that he is capable of getting on base at an elite clip. Posting a .400, .371, and .394 OBP in each season since 2010. His ability to get in base from the catchers spot rivals only that of Buster Posey and Joe Mauer. Over the last three season (minimum 400 plate appearances per season) he is routinely in the top 25 in all of baseball and top three at his position. His career K/BB ratio of 286:270 is outstanding and he is likely to keep with this trend as it is one of his greatest strengths. All of this bodes well for 2013 and beyond as Ruiz will likely be able to contribute in runs scored and batting average. Which leads me to my next point.

2.) Strong Batting Average: Ruiz has an excellent plate approach and he is likely to sustain his relatively new found, high-average, stroke at the plate. He makes excellent contact, despite his minimal power, and could easily maintain a batting average anywhere between .290-.310 over the course of a full season. Considering that he is one of only three players, along with Mauer and Posey, to post a batting average above .300 (Ruiz is at .303) while logging 1200+ plate appearances since 2010 I would say he has a very good shot of staying around the range in 2013 and beyond. He has become a fixture in the Phillies' lineup and that trend will continue as he has proven himself as a strong offensive contributor.

3.) Positional Security: Ever since the Phillies traded Travis d'Arnaud to the Blue Jays in 2010 there has been no threat to unseat Ruiz from behind the dish. That might have changed a bit in 2012 as the Phillies acquired Tommy Joseph from the San Francisco Giants at the deadline for Hunter Pence. Realistically Joseph will not be ready to challenge Chooh for playing time until mid way through 2014 at the earliest so potential Ruiz owners will still have the green light to pick up Ruiz with no fear of him being relegated to a platoon type situation. Expect Ruiz to log 125+ games and another 400+ plate appearances in 2013.

Personally, I do not believe Ruiz will carry over the power he displayed in 2012 next season and I am sure that I am in the majority with that not-so-bold assumption. He posted a .215 ISO in 2012 which is nearly 50 points higher than his previous career high and while his BABIP was high, .339 in 2012, I am not nearly as worried about that regressing as I am with the power. Ruiz has a line drive stroke and has posted BABIP over .300 in each of the last three seasons which supports his strong batting average. His HR/FB% on the other hand jumped from 4.4% in 2011 to 15.1% in 2012. I could very easily see that number regress by a full 10% in 2013 leaving owners with anywhere between 8-12 home runs over the full season. A far cry from the pace he established in 2012.

My advice is to wait and see how far Ruiz falls on draft day as he has shown the ability to rival the catching elite in categories like batting average and OBP. Just don't buy into the power and take him too early expecting him to hit 15-20 home runs because he won't. If you can snag him after round 15 in a standard 5x5 league you are golden, anything before round 10 and you will be disappointed. He will be a steady producer in a decent lineup and he will help solidify your team batting average and chip in a few runs and RBI's to boot. Draft accordingly.

TO SUM IT UP: An unspectacular but steady option who contributes to a category most backstops do not: Batting Average. He won't win you very many leagues, but he also won't lose you any leagues.

2013 Bold Prediction: .287/.362/.457, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 53 R, 448 PA

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