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MLB Today: Carlos Ruiz’s Splendid First Half

July 9, 2012 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Raul Valdes is having a nice season for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Raul Valdes has been solid, but served up a damaging dinger Sunday.

Every baseball season brings its Fantasy surprises, but few have been bigger in 2012 – from a pleasant perspective, that is – than Philadelphia Phillies’ catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Heading into the season, we ranked Ruiz as the 19th-best catcher to own, making him a decent No. 2 backstop in standard formats.

Um, ya… about that.

No catcher has been as valuable as Ruiz in 2012, and really it’s not even close.

Not only has the Panama-born veteran continued to excel defensively, but he’s put on a show offensively that no one saw coming. Another two hits in Sunday’s swan song before the break lifted Ruiz back up to .350, a mark he’s pretty much steadily maintained since mid-May.

Ruiz hit .313 with 10 RBI in April, yet it was his worst month of the season from an OPS perspective. That ought to tell you something right there.

With all the underachieving (either through performance or injury) on the Phillies this year, imagine where they’d be without Ruiz’s contributions. In a season filled with lowlights for Philly, Chooch’s efforts make him the most valuable player on the team.

We are talking about a dude that’s already within 26 hits of matching his career best set last year; his extra-base pop has exploded. Hell, he’s even pitching in with the occasional steal. He’s in the top five in the NL in batting, slugging and OPS. He’s already set a career high in dingers.

Every time it looks like he’s coming back to earth, Ruiz lights in up. Consider that he’s taken an 0-for-4 10 times this season. In the games following those efforts, he’s batting .419 with a .486 OBP and a slugging percentage of nearly .750. Ruiz is obviously making rapid adjustments which have allowed him to avoid a prolonged slump.

Overall, Ruiz is performing at a fourth round level – pretty sweet for a player that likely wasn’t even drafted in your league.

And he’s done it all despite a severely weaker walk rate. Clearly, taking a more aggressive approach at the plate is working for Ruiz.

Naturally, Ruiz continues to fly under the radar in the public eye, failing to get voted into the All-Star game, but Fantasy owners have definitely caught on.

So if you can parlay the 33-year-old veteran for a nice return, do it.

Quick Hits

  • When we last checked in on Ben Zobrist in late-April, he was struggling badly. And really, it’s a situation that has continued most of the season – except for a huge June. Well, he came through with the go-ahead RBI single Sunday to end the first half with a modest three-game hit streak. His overall numbers are somewhat disappointing, but an improved walk rate has allowed Zobrist to salvage his season. The run total, which we lamented about in April, has bounced back nicely. Our recommendation: wait for another hot streak and then try to move him.
  • Another player that finished the first half with a flourish is Cub shortstop Starlin Castro, who had two hits – including a three-run jack – and two runs Sunday. It’s been a disappointing season for the youngster, who showed improvement in his sophomore effort last year, but has not built on that. He’s stayed healthy, but after breaking through with a 200-hit season, Castro is unlikely to reach that mark again without a huge season half. On the plus side, many of his doubles have turned into triples and homers, but his work on the basepaths has been abysmal. Castro is headed the All-Star game, but since a hot start, his season has headed downhill. His OPS by month: 784 in April, 763 in May, 711 in June, 568 in July. Castro was better in the second half in each of his first two seasons, so consider him a good buy-low candidate.
  • On the flipside, someone who is probably quite ready for a break is Phillies’ reliever Raul Valdes. He’s enjoyed a nice first half – good enough to provide low-end value in an extremely deep NL-only league – but the long reliever took a couple of beatdowns in his final two appearances, including Sunday when he served up the go-ahead home run to Brian McCann as he suffered his second loss in four appearances to have his record squared at 2-2. So suddenly a reliever who was so sound in May and June is looking rather shaky as we head into the break. The Cuban veteran has been harder to hit than ever this year, yet his bottom line results have suggested differently. Generally, Valdes’ control has been superb this year – as long as the Phillies don’t ask him to start, which they did a couple of weeks ago, with disastrous results.

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