The Miami Marlins employed five outfielders primarily on this year's roster. Among them, Justin Ruggiano played the second-most amount of time in the Major Leagues, as he recorded a career-best 472 plate appearances at the big league level. The Fish leaned on Ruggiano's versatility to fill in at multiple positions because of injuries and ineffectiveness.
Ruggiano put up a game effort, but regression and an ugly midseason slump sank his numbers.
Heading into the 2013 season, there was a question as to whether Ruggiano, at age 31, could actually have blossomed into a Major League regular. It would not be the first time, but it would be a long shot, even for a guy who rode a hot streak to a .313/.374/.535 (.390 wOBA) season last year. But early on, it seemed that he had regularized to a more projected level of performance, which would have been acceptable for Miami. By the end of June, Ruggiano was hitting a meager but worthwhile .233/.298/.423 (.318 wOBA). He was providing decent power (.190 ISO) and was not finding luck on balls in play (.273 BABIP), but it was still a playable batting line.
Then the middle of July happened. After a July 8 game in which he picked up one hit in six plate appearances, Ruggiano did not get a hit for the next 47 plate appearances, as he ran up a 42 at-bat hitless streak that fell four appearances shy of a Major League record. His line tumbled at the time from .224/.290.408 to .194/.273/.354, sinking his season along the way. The streak shook his confidence and saw his spot in the lineup taken away until he recovered in early August.
Ruggiano hit a successful .285/.354/.492 to end the year on a positive note and bring his batting line back to where it was pre-hitless streak, but the season was decided by that point. Ruggiano had more or less failed his tryout as a starting-caliber player, as the Marlins jerked him around enough times during the season to reveal their opinion of him as a starting player. Ruggiano was decent defensively and did his fair share of aggressive (and at times inappropriate) baserunning, but those were small compared to his struggles at the plate.
The difficulty Ruggiano had with balls in play (.260 BABIP in 2013) masked his benefit for the Fish as a power hitter. Ruggiano was second in home runs on the team with 18, and he was the only other player besides Giancarlo Stanton who boasted an ISO above the league average. Ruggiano's rate of homers was down this season slightly from last year, as he hit long balls on 15.1 percent of fly balls versus 16.7 percent last year. But given the team's dearth of power, Ruggiano may still be valuable to them.
Miami will have to make decisions on next year's outfield, but Ruggiano already more or less guaranteed that he will not win a starting job unless the team's prospects falter. The midseason slump stopped his 2014 chances at a starting job dead.