The Rays off season isn’t going exactly as some had hoped it would. The elusive RH bat that many say the team needs in order to produce vs LHP hasn’t been acquired or signed......yet.
In the beginning, there seemed to be so many options that the Rays “had” to be able to land one, right? Not so. The two most recent signings of Chris Carter by the Yankees and Mike Napoli by the Rangers have taken two of the most promising options off the table.
Now, the Rays are left looking at a dwindling list of free agents and trade targets. Some feel Matt Wieters fits best, and he’s been a rumored target for the Rays. But the Rays are well served by continuing to look at trade options as a way to resolve the issue. So far the only solace has been Rickie Weeks on a minor league deal.
The good news is that Napoli’s signing by Texas may make some of the Rangers’ other infielders expendable. Some have focused on the now healthy Jurickson Profar as a potential target. Here I’ll be examining what I see as a more intriguing fit for the Rays: Ryan Rua.
While I haven’t heard any rumours suggesting Rua is on the market; this article examines the “what if?” side of a possible trade.
Ryan Rua Basics
Twitter handle: @Rua_Numba_2
Scouting Grades: Hit 45 | Power 55 | Speed 40 | Field 45 | Throws 50
Ranked 8th best Rangers prospect by BA in 2015, where Ben Badler described him as having “plus power and can take the ball out of the park to all fields”.
Ryan Rua Hitting
2016 vs LHP (116 PA): .267/.344/.432 | 4 HR | 7.8%BB | 22.4%SO | .337 wOBA | 107 wRC+
2016 vs RHP (153 PA): .278/.344/.398 | 4 HR | 7.8%BB | 32.8%SO | .301 wOBA | 82 wRC+
Brooks Baseball had this to add about his 2016 season:
- vs Fastballs: “When he connected (94 tracked), he generated average power (91.7 mph average exit velocity) and sprays the ball to all fields (-0.1° average spray angle).”
- vs Breaking Pitches: “When he connected (28 tracked), he generated average power (90.3 mph average exit velocity) and sprays the ball to all fields (5.8° average spray angle).”
- vs Offspeed Pitches: “When he connected (21 tracked), he generated thundering power (94 mph average exit velocity) and sprays the ball to all fields (9.3° average spray angle). “
I have highlighted these reports to show how his potential to provide average or better power while spraying the ball to all fields. Any time a player is described as spraying the ball to all fields and having “thundering power”, it has to catch your attention.
What does thundering power look like?
And not only does he have the thundering power to intimidate pitchers who don’t want to leave one in the zone, but he’s got enough speed to chug around the bases nicely.
To be honest, overall in MLB, he hasn’t received enough playing time yet to really show what he can achieve at the plate. We know he sprays the ball well and has power, but can he make enough contact, work enough counts, and perform well enough vs both LHP and RHP?
Ryan Rua Contact Rates
Swinging 45.4% of the time in 2016, Rua swung at a pitch inside the strike zone 65.2% of the time, and outside the zone 28.5% of the time. For the swings made on balls outside the zone, Rua still made contact 61.5% of the time, and when swinging on pitches inside the zone, the contact rate increased to 80.3%. That allowed Rua to achieve an overall contact rate of 73.9% on the year.
Because most would hope Rua can tap into his power in the same way Brad Miller did in 2016, I thought it would be interesting to compare their contact rates. Miller managed contact on pitches outside the zone 65.2% of the time (+3.7 compared to Rua), made contact 81.7% of the time on pitches swung at inside the zone (+1.4% compared to Rua), and made contact 75.6% of the time overall (+1.7% compared to Rua).
As you can see, when it comes to contact rate, these two are fairly similar. With a full season of playing time and power to all fields, could Rua tap into his power in the same way Miller did last year?
Ryan Rua Fielding
Rua’s defensive versatility is another reason the Rays should be interested in him. Despite having limited MLB experience, he already has some experience at multiple positions and holds his own anywhere he is asked to play.
Here’s what he’s done thus far fielding wise (kept 3B and CF out since he only has 3 GP at 3B and 4 GP in CF without an error):
- 1B: 44 GP | 254 Inn | 1 Error | RzR .771 | ErrR 0.1 | DRS -2 | UZR -1.3
- LF: 99 GP | 683 Inn | 1 Error | RzR .938 | ErrR 0.7 | DRS +1 | UZR 4.6
- RF: 7 GP | 49 Inn | 0 Error | RzR 1.000 | ErrR 0.1 | DRS -1 | UZR -1.4
What this shows us, is that Rua is best served in LF but very capable of handling 1B and RF. With the ability of also filling in at 3B or CF in a pinch, Rua would be capable of helping the Rays out in many ways.
Ryan Rua’s Contract
Rua is ARB 1 eligible in 2018 and could be controlled through 2020. While he could get expensive in years 2 and 3 of his arbitration, if he taps into his power and shows it off as Miller has, his contract becomes both attractive to the Rays and attractive on the trade market.
Ryan Rua Overall Fit with the Rays
When it comes to being a fit with the Rays, off-the-bench and/or fighting for playing time with Logan Morrison at 1B and with Colby Rasmus in LF, he fits in perfectly.
With Rua’s ability to hit both LHP and RHP at similar - and adequate - rates, he can help mend the deficiencies of other players on this team (such as Rasmus and his .212/.291/.364 career line vs LHP and Morrison’s .234/.312/.419 line vs RHP).
Having the ability to also help out at 3B to spell Longo and in CF to spell KK just adds to his appeal and provides something that no current Rays minor leaguer or bench player projects to provide. Particularly not with the kind of power and seasoning Rua possesses.
Rangers Point of View
The Rangers may want to hold onto Rua and make sure they know what they have in Nomar Mazara and in Shin Soo-Choo’s health before making any deal. There’s no guarantee that he’s available on the trade market at all. They could be shopping others in hopes of keeping Rua for the exact role I described above.
However, if they’re not getting what they feel is fair value for someone like Profar in trade, they may look at dealing Rua. The returns can consist of pitching - something the Rays have plenty of - and could increase their chances of competing in 2017. Cole Hamels wasn’t himself last year, Yu Darvish is still rebuilding strength (100 IP in 2016), and the Rangers betting on oft-injured Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, as well as the still unproven Martin Perez, they’re in dire need of some security and depth for their staff.
Looking through their roster, you quickly note that Rua becomes one of the more valuable trade commodities that wouldn’t severely hamper their chances of winning in 2017, due to the addition of Napoli and the presence of both Profar and Joey Gallo.
In fairness to the Rays system, there’s nothing wrong with them giving a young prospect like Daniel Robertson a shot in 2017 instead of making a move for Rua. However, with their seemingly endless pursuit of an impact RHB, I feel that Rua’s versatility at the right positions (those where Rays are weakest) trumps the need to give Robertson a shot. After all, it’s not like Robertson hit the cover off the ball in 2016, managing 5 HRs and .259/.358/.356 in 511 PA.
When it comes to 1B, some will point to Casey Gillaspie as an option, and rightfully so. However, the Rays are likely to want to see him play a few months in AAA to begin the season and get him regular playing time. Without an ability to fill in at other positions, he doesn’t fit a bench and utility role in the same way Rua would. On the same note, the Rays preference is likely to provide more seasoning to a top 1B-LF prospect like Jake Bauers.
Adding Rua would increase the chance of the Rays competing for a playoff spot in 2017 by balancing their roster overall from the beginning of the season onwards. Nothing says someone like Robertson can’t get a shot to fill in at 2B or SS if another player is injured or gets moved.
With Rua’s skillset being something the Rays don’t have in-house right now, and the needs matching what the Rays have to offer, he seems attainable and a good trade target overall.