Yesterday, Phillies star catcher Carlos Ruiz was suspended for use of amphetamines. I wrote a quick article for The Outside Corner once the news broke, in which I noted:
"Also career highs in 2012 were Ruiz's BABIP (.339) and HR/FB rate (15.1 percent), which shot up drastically from 4.4 percent in 2011 with a previous career high of 8.1 percent (minimum of 300 at-bats). Were amphetamines the leading cause for these sharp statistical increases at age 33? It's impossible to say for sure, but one has to speculate -- especially for a catcher, whose position creates the most wear and tear out of any other everyday position -- that they did indeed play a role."
Outside of the fact that Ruiz will miss 25 games, and the numbers that comes along with them, we can certainly approach his 2013 projections with caution due to several circumstances. One could argue that Ruiz would miss as many games anyway due to his position and need for rest, but rest in the case of a catcher is often times about a break during a long stretch rather than the general wear-and-tear of a long season -- though that certainly plays a role as well. The question isn't so much what the time off will do to Ruiz, but whether or not a lack of an illegal substance will affect his numbers.
It has been reported that Adderall was the substance Ruiz was bannded for using. Adderall is commonly subscribed to people with ADHD, which helps with focus, not adrenaline.
Concentration is an important component to a players batting skill that cannot be presented through statistics. Given what we know about MLB's anti-amphetamine policy -- a player must fail a test twice before suspension -- the use of amphetamines was not a one-time deal for Ruiz. Because fantasy baseball is about trying to figure what a player will do rather than what he has done, we must consider that Ruiz's 2012 numbers were at least somewhat inflated due to a banned substance. While we do not know exactly when or how often Ruiz was using the substance, we can look at his unusual hot start to 2012 as a reason to question his performance given his track record. Since 2006, Ruiz has put up better numbers in the second half of the season, a trend that was reversed this past season.
That being said, we still can assume a couple of things about Ruiz based on his track record...
1. He should still hold above average value in OBP leagues thanks to solid plate discipline and contact skills over the past few seasons. While his drop in walk rate last season is a bit disconcerting, it also could end up as an outlier given consistently high walk rates since 2008 and the use of an adrenaline boosting substance in 2012.
2. He still has a chance to hit for a decent average. As stated above, his solid plate discipline and contact skills are a starting point and he has held a line drive rate of over 20-percent since 2010.
When we put everything together, and consider that he'll be a 34-year-old catcher heading into the 2013 season, we find a bit more risk than stability, especially considering that he dealt with and missed time from a Plantar Fasciitis (foot) injury late last season.
Carlos Ruiz - C - PHI
2013 Age: 34 - Splits: None
2013 Projection: 383 AB, .287/.379/.456, 8 HR, 56 RBI, 50 R, 2 SB
Upside: .300/.400/.450, 12 HR
Downside: .265/.360, 5 HR. Even more downside if his walk rate does not bounce back.