Justin Ruggiano: The One that got away?


Since becoming the Astros G. M. a little less than a year ago, Jeff Luhnow has made a number of trades in an attempt to restock a neglected farm system. Although it will take some time to determine whether or not these trades were indeed productive, almost all of them have been viewed in a positive light. One exception could be the May 26 deal that sent Justin Ruggiano to Miami for Jobduan Morales.

I say “could be” because we still don’t know what will happen in the long run. One thing we do know is that Ruggiano had an outstanding season with the Marlins. What we don’t know is whether or not Ruggiano, a career minor leaguer, has actually turned the corner. Perhaps the .313/.374/.535 slash line that Ruggiano posted in 320 plate appearances was an anomaly. Then again, maybe not. The fact remains that no one on the Astros 2012 roster even came close to producing those kind of numbers. Would Ruggiano have been the Astros best player this year if he had been given the chance? No one can say for sure, but it would have been nice to have a guy who hit 13 homers and stole 14 bases.

Justin Ruggiano (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)

Prior to the trade Ruggiano was raking at AAA Oklahoma City, posting a .325/.409/.581 slash line in 39 games. At the same time, Astros outfielders J.D. Martinez and Jordan Schafer were carrying the load offensively and making a case that Ruggiano was expendable. Despite their fast starts both Martinez and Schafer would struggle for pretty much the remainder of the season. Of course, Luhnow had no way of knowing that at the time.

Ruggiano came into the 2012 season with the reputation of a guy who was a AAAA player. A 25th round pick by the Dodgers in 2004 out of Texas A & M, Ruggiano had fared well in the minors (.291/.365/.480 since advancing to AAA way back in 2007) but only hit .226/.262/.359 in parts of three big league seasons with Tampa Bay. Luhnow had the odds in his favor, figuring that the 30-year old would revert to his old ways, but that just didn’t turn out to be the case.

The other half of the equation is Jobduan Morales. At the time of the trade the Astros organization was short on legitimate prospects at the catcher position. Morales, who is only 21, gives Houston added depth at the position. Viewed as pretty much an average prospect across the board, Morales hit .285/.344/.420 in 54 games between Tri-City and Lexington.

Chances are Morales never delivers a season in Houston like the one Ruggiano had for the Marlins. I guess that means this trade will probably be viewed as a bust, especially if Ruggiano’s success continues. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20.