Throughout the 2016-17 offseason, Fish Stripes will be counting down the top 100 Marlins to appear with the club, in ascending order by cumulative Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Justin Ruggiano, an outfielder, earned a 2.5 figure while with Miami.
Justin Ruggiano was born in Austin, Texas on April 12th, 1982. In time, he grew into a 6’1”, 210 lb. right-handed hitting outfielder, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 25th round of the 2004 amateur draft, with the 748th overall pick. The only other player to appear in the major leagues from out of that round was Duente Heath, who pitched in eight games with the Chicago White Sox.
Ruggiano played most of the next two seasons in the Dodgers’ minor league system, until they traded him to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as a PTBNL with Dioner Navarro and Jae Weong Seo for Toby Hall, Mark Hendrickson, and cash.
It was with the Rays that Ruggiano eventually made his major league debut, going three-for-14 over seven games in September, 2007. He got into 45 games with the club, by then just the Rays, in 2008. He hit just .197 in his more extended look, with two homers and seven RBI over 81 plate appearances. He would toil away in the Rays’ system for the next two seasons before finally making it back to the big leagues in 2011, when he hit .248/.273/.400/.673 over 46 games with the Rays, with four round-trippers and 13 RBI.
During the 2011-12 offseason, Ruggiano was granted free agency, and signed on as a free agent with the Houston Astros. After appearing in 39 games with their triple-A Pacific Coast League affiliate, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, and hitting .325/.409/.591/.990, the Astros traded him on to the Marlins on May 26th for Jobduan Morales (who has yet to surface at the major league level.
Ruggiano didn’t spend any time in the Marlins’ minor league feeder system, instead joining the parent club immediately. Over 91 games in 2012 for the Fish, he hit .313/.374/.535/.909, with 13 homers and 36 RBI. He stole 14 bases and played at all three outfield positions, but mostly center field. He would have led the team in batting average and on base percentage, and ranked second in slugging percentage and OPS if he had collected just about 10 or so more plate appearances. Even so, he ranked third on the club in home runs and seventh in RBI. He had 29 multi-hit games, over a third of his starts. Of Ruggiano’s 2.5 WAR with the Marlins, (and his 3.1 career WAR overall), 2.4 of it was for his performance in 2012. The Marlins went 32-59 when he played and 37-34 when he did not. Make of that what you will.
On June 9th, in what turned out to be a 13-4 loss to the Rays, Ruggiano collected three RBI with a homer and a double. In a 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on July 2nd, he hit a two-run single in the first and a two-run homer in the third. He went four-for-four on August 28th in a 9-0 whitewash of the Washington Nationals, with a solo home run in the first, a walk and a run in the third, an RBI single in the fourth, a single and a run in the sixth, and another single in the eighth.
Ruggiano was not Miami’s opening day starter in center field in 2013, but he did start the second game and a lot more after that. He ranked second on the team with 128 games played, but his slashline regressed to figures of .222/.298/.396/.694. He did rank second on the club with 18 home runs, 50 RBI, and 15 stolen bases. The team posted a 45-83 in his appearances and a 17-17 game when he sat. Although not his best year, it wasn’t without it’s moments. He hit multiple homers on three occasions through the season, including on June 23rd, when he went deep twice for three RBI in a 7-2 Marlins win over the San Francisco Giants (see below). In total, he had 26 multi hit games, including four three-hit affairs.
Ruggiano was traded by the Marlins to the Chicago Cubs after the 2013 campaign, for Brian Bogusevic. In the three seasons between then and now, he has played with the Cubs (81 games, .281/.337.429/.766), the Seattle Mariners (36 games, .214/.321/.357/.678), the Dodgers (21 games, .291/.350/.618/.968), the Texas Rangers (one game, one-for-four), and the New York Mets (eight games, .350/.409/.650/1.059). He is currently arbitration eligible, and is still part of the Mets organization.
Keep it here for Marlins’ news through the offseason, and join us next time for the number 80 Marlin of all time, a relief pitcher for the last three iterations of the “Florida” Marlins.