Ryan Rua Scouting Report: Ryan Rua ranked #10 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 30 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 32 list, and who didn't get traded. 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-2014. 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 2B/3B/COF, who turns 25 in March, 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.
While his 2013 campaign put him on the map, there were still a lot of questions about Rua coming into the 2014 season...was he just an older guy beating up on kids in Hickory, or were the big numbers a sign of things to come? Rua started 2014 back in AA Frisco and performed admirably there, logging a .300/.375/.475 line with 30 walks against 55 Ks in 288 plate appearances while mostly playing third base. Rua earned a promotion to AAA Round Rock in late June and didn't miss a beat, going .313/.382/.505 with 42 Ks and 21 walks in 241 PAs and splitting time between left field and third base.
The Rangers saw enough from Rua to bring him to the majors in late August, and he again acquitted himself well, going .295/.321/.419 in 109 plate appearances, although with an 18/2 K/BB ratio. Rua played mostly left field and first base once he was called up, though he also got a pair of starts at DH, and picked up a single inning at third base.
Rua's performance was impressive enough to get him placed 9th in the Baseball America Texas League prospect rankings, getting praise for his "smooth swing" and defensive versatility. BA had Rua 8th on the Rangers' top 10 prospect list (7th if you remove Luis Sardinas, who was traded after the list came out). Keith Law and John Sickels each had Rua 11th on their respective Rangers lists, and while BP didn't have Rua in their Rangers top 10, they had him on their list of "Factors on the Farm." Jamey Newberg, meanwhile, had Rua at #6 on his pre-2015 Rangers list.
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, all the infield positions other than shortstop, as well as left field, he reminds me some of Jeff Baker, who carved out a nice career as a righthanded hitting bench bat who could handle multiple positions.
In terms of potential ceiling, the guy I've generally thought of as the best case scenario for Rua is Dan Uggla, another guy who was a late-bloomer, but who had enough power and walks to make up for a lot of swing-and-miss in his at bats. Uggla ended up sticking at second base, while that's an unlikely home for Rua so long as he stays in Texas, but the offensive profile seems similar.
Rua is coming to camp looking to win a starting job, and according to Evan Grant, the left field job is Rua's to lose. The statistical projections don't think Rua will hit enough to stick in left field regularly, at least in 2015, but Rua has turned heads with his ability to make adjustments and adapt as he's climbed up the ladder, and I think the organization believes that will allow him to survive in the majors as an everyday player. Rua could end up playing left field regularly in 2015, he could end up in a part-time role that also sees him get some time in the infield, or he could end up in AAA, waiting for an opportunity to get back to the majors. But either way, Rua has put himself in a position to carve out a role as a major leaguer.