Ryan Rua Scouting Report: Texas Ranger minor league second baseman Ryan Rua ranked #19 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 31 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 31. I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2013. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Ryan Rua...
Ryan Rua is a 6'2", 180 lb infielder, who turns 24 on Tuesday, and who was the Rangers' 17th round draft pick (#534 overall) in the 2011 MLB draft out of Lake Erie College in Plainsville, Ohio. Rua was initially assigned in 2011 to Spokane in short season A ball, but after 7 games and a .192/.250/.308 slash line in 28 plate appearances, Rua was dropped down to the team's complex league team in the AZL. Facing mostly teenagers who were recent high school draftees or international signings, Rua hit well, putting up a .321/.395/.512 line in 186 plate appearances while playing mostly 3B. However, as a college draftee in the complex league, that sort of performance isn't going to put you on the prospect map.
Rua returned to Spokane in 2012, playing primarily third base, but also playing some first base, second base and shortstop. Rua hit decently, going .293/.368/.432 with 7 homers in 320 plate appearances; but again, his performance was not going to have him pegged as more than an organizational depth guy, given he was doing this in short season ball at the age of 22.
And then came 2013. Rua was assigned to the Hickory Crawdads in the low-A Sally League. The Crawdads got a lot of attention before the season because the Rangers had an incredible collection of exciting, high-ceiling teenage talent assigned to the club. Rua, as a 23 year old organizational soldier, seemed destined to be in the background.
But Rua had a breakout season in 2013, to put it mildly. In 430 plate appearances for Hickory, Rua hit 29 homers, drew 49 walks, and was hit by 12 pitches, so even though he only put up a .251 batting average, Rua posted a .356 OBP and a .559 slugging percentage. This explosion earned Rua a late season promotion to AA Frisco, and while Rua struggled, he didn't drown, logging a .233/.305/.384 line in 95 plate appearances in the Texas League.
The Rangers have a lot of prospects who are hard to project, hard to grade and hard to rank, and Rua is among the most difficult of the group. While a lot of Ranger prospects present a challenge because they are putting up middling numbers while being very young for their league, Rua put up huge numbers for a second baseman, but did it as a 23 year old in low-A, two levels lower than where you expect most legit prospects to be at age 23. In addition, with 91 Ks in 430 plate appearances at Hickory (and 115 Ks in 525 PAs overall this year), Rua's K rate is somewhat alarming, and his glovework isn't going to be his ticket to the majors.
While Rua spent most of his time in Hickory at second base, in no small part because Joey Gallo was at third base, he played mostly third when he got to Frisco, with Rougned Odor manning second base. My guess is that he starts the season in AA Frisco at the hot corner, while also mixing in some time at other spots on the field.
Tepid did a Q&A with Rua in August of 2013, and I'd encourage you to read that to get some more info and background on him. He's a real interesting case, and as a bat-first infielder who can handle, but not excel at, either second base or third base, he reminds me some of last year's platoon 2B/3B/DH/OF, Jeff Baker. J.J. Cooper, in his Sally League chat at Baseball America after the 2013 season, suggested that Rua could get a shot "as a utility guy who can play a little 2B, some 3B and in the outfield," which sounds a lot like Baker to me. Baker was more advanced at the same age as Rua, and was a 4th round pick out of Clemson, so he had a better pedigree. However, he put up a .318/.413/.530 line as a 23 year old splitting time between the Cal League and the Texas League, with 95 Ks and 54 walks in 424 plate appearances, which is similar to what Rua did as a 23 year old.
In terms of potential ceiling, the best case comp for Rua is probably Dan Uggla. Like Rua, Uggla was a later draft pick (11th round in 2001) who didn't do much his first two years as a pro. Then in 2003, as a 23 year old, Uggla put up a .290/.355/.504 line in 608 plate appearances for Lancaster in the California League, with 23 homers, 46 walks and 105 Ks in 608 plate appearances...again, very similar to what Rua did in 2013 as a 23 year old.
Uggla ended up splitting the 2004 season between the Cal League and the Texas League, mashing in high-A (1022 OPS) and flopping in AA (653 OPS), then acquitting himself well in 2005 in AA before ending up reaching the majors for good as a Rule 5 pick of the Marlins in 2006. If you want to dream on Rua, you'd hope for a career, and a statistical line, like Uggla's in Florida.