At this point of Spring Training, it almost feels blasé to keep pounding away and writing about the same things over and over. Yes, we know Nomar Mazara is exciting. That Jurickson Profar is working toward being an everyday baseball player again. And we know that more than a few fans are still pretty upset with Elvis Andrus -- something I still can't wrap my head around.
Here it is, March 8, and Ryan Rua is once again "under the radar" as far as excitement goes. In yesterday's game, Rua went 3-for-3 with 2 doubles, this coming after a 4-for-4 performance in Saturday's "B" game. It's Spring Training, but for someone like Rua, these reps are important.
Rua, of course, came up in the organization as mostly an infielder. It wasn't until late 2014 that the Rangers began converting Rua to left field. Entering the 2015 season, he put up a solid camp and won the left field job, but was never able to stay healthy enough to produce much for Texas.
This season, the Rangers have signed Ian Desmond to play left field -- after news of Josh Hamilton starting the season on the DL -- so there is no starting job to be won for Rua. However, in Rua's misfortune during 2015, he may have proven just how valuable he is.
To extrapolate: The Rangers traded for Josh Hamilton, but he was hurt for a significant portion of the year. That led to the club giving Joey Gallo a look. Even Mike Napoli got some late-season innings out in left field. The list of players that formed the revolving door that was left field in 2015? Will Venable, Joey Gallo, Kyle Blanks Carlos Peguero, Jake Smolinski, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Rua, Adam Rosales, Ryan Strausborger, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and Delino DeShields. So, although Rua might not be battling for a starting job at the current time, there's certainly value in the Rangers having someone who can fill in on days when Desmond might need to play the infield, a day off, or in the unfortunate event that either Desmond or Shin-Soo Choo suffer an injury.
Beyond that, it appears that he's willing to make the changes necessary to be a more successful player. Per Gerry Fraley:
"Rua, the opening day left fielder last season, has made substantial changes to his swing. He has decreased the front-leg kick and is trying to drive pitches up the middle rather than try to pull them as far as possible."
A small sample size in 2014 has shown that Rua can handle Major League pitching. In 109 plate appearances, he posted a wRC+ of 104. Keep in mind, that was his first taste of Major League competition. In other words, due to small sample sizes and injuries, we still don't really know what Ryan Rua's ceiling is.
In the past, I've seen comps to Dan Uggla, which probably makes sense offensively, although I'd like to think that Rua might be able to do better on the strikeout front. Furthermore, Rua's value defensively in left field might provide some excess value. Also, let's not forget that on day's that the Rangers don't want to expose Mitch Moreland to left-handed pitching, a versatile player like Rua will be exactly what the doctor ordered.
All of this comes before considering that Rua is only set to set the Rangers back $508,500. No, that isn't chump change by any means, but in baseball, it's a bargain if you're paying it to someone who can be a versatile -- and needed -- right-handed bat when called upon.
It's easy to get caught up in the hype machine of prospects; to drool over the future crop of premium talent. Ryan Rua has never really been mentioned in that mold. However, he's flying under the radar once again, and before it's all said and done, he might win a valuable role with your 2016 Texas Rangers.