2016 Breakout Candidates: Ryan Rua

Ryan Rua is heading into his age 26 season and is poised for very great things Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Rua is heading into his age 26 season and is poised for very great things
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers finally made another postseason appearance last season, making it their first since 2012. Prior to 2012, the Rangers made it to the World Series for two consecutive season, but lost both times first to the San Francisco Giants then to the St. Louis Cardinals. As they head into 2016 with high expectations and hopes for the franchise's first ever World Series win, we have heard a lot of arguments for and against their chances. The rotation is great, but can it stay healthy? Can their bullpen follow up an incredible 2015 season with a good 2016 campaign? Ian Desmond has always been a good shortstop, but can he have a rebound season? How will the switch to Left Field affect him? What can we expect from veterans Prince Fielder, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland, or Shin-Soo Choo? Will Rougned Odor build on his breakout from last season?  When will Joey Gallo make his big splash? Well one thing we haven't heard too much about, is where and when will Ryan Rua affect this team in 2016. Rua is the first and only player to be drafted out of Lake Erie College in Ohio, and while he was drafted as an infielder he now has made the switch to being primarily corner outfield spots with a little bit of first and third here and there. We heard a lot about Rua last year, considering he was coming off a nice 28 game MLB debut in 2014 (.295 with 2 HR and 14 RBI), his outstanding 2013 season in the minor league's was fresh in people's minds (.247 with 32 HR and 91 RBI between single A and double A), and he had won the starting left field job out of Spring Training, but he has now fallen behind the scenes. Not only did Rua struggle in 2015 statistically, but he dealt with a number of injuries (.193 with 4 HR in 28 MLB games, .197 with 6 HR in 40 MILB games). Rua is now 26, and still has the potential to provide a rare commodity in today's game, power from the right side of the plate. Texas sees this potential, and as of March 29th informed him that he would be on the Opening Day roster (Had hit .426 with 2 HR and 10 RBI in 54 Spring at bats at the time of the decision to include him). While playing time might be scarce for him due to Ian Desmond, Delino DeShields, and Shin-Soo Choo starting every day in the outfield, his versatility and high potential could eventually help him earn a bigger role this year and put him in a position for a very nice breakout. While his best bet for more playing time may be an injury to either Elvis Andrus or an outfielder, I believe he could thrive in a utility type role. But one under the radar way for him to gain more playing time and provide a bigger impact, would be as a platoon first baseman given that he hits righty and both Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland hit lefty and don't perform as well against lefties. It would, however, be absurd to take Fielder out of the lineup for any reason, and Moreland is the way more likely option. In 2015, Moreland not only had a rebound year, but his best career year, hitting .278 (Career high) with 23 HR (Tied for Career high), 85 RBI (Career high), 27 doubles (Career high), and 131 base knocks (Career high); but as is the case with so many left-handed hitters, he was not as good against lefties. Over 155 at bats vs. left-handed pitching, Moreland hit .245 with 5 HR, as opposed to .294 with 18 against right-handed pitching. While it may take a month or so, do not be surprised at all to see Rua at first base more and more if a lefty is facing the Rangers. Look for Rua to not only breakout in 2016, but surprise a lot of people in doing so.