No one’s 2013 season went wrong more quickly than Ryan Ludwick’s. He blew out his shoulder sliding on the first day of the season and that was that. He came back late in the year, but was far from fully recovered and even farther from productive. In 38 games, Ludwick managed to be worth almost a full win BELOW replacement. That is not good.
So what should we expect from Ludwick this year? Let’s take a look.
2013 Slash Line: .249/.293/.326
2014 Projection: .250/.310/.415
2013 WAR: -0.8
2014 Best Guess WAR: 0.5
Projected Difference: +1.3 WAR
2014 Floor: -2.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 2.5 WAR
I realize this projection is going to raise some hackles, so let me try to take the arguments one at a time.
1. No, he is not going to be above average. Ryan Ludwick was a really good ball player for exactly one season. That season was six years ago. Other than that he has had either one (FanGraphs) or zero (BBRef) seasons above 2.5 WAR. And even that one FanGraphs season was just a 2.6.
2. Yes, it is possible he’ll hit better than this. But look, shoulder injuries can be rough on power and all of Ludwick’s value is tied up in his power. This projection has him as basically a league average hitter. He may be a bit better than that. However he is also 35 this year, and that is not an age when players typically come back like gangbusters from serious injuries.
3. He is really bad at defense. Like really bad. He figures to be at least a full win below average for a left fielder, which like saying a particular sloth is slow for a sloth. He’s not good in the field.
So, basically, if Ludwick were a league-average fielder at shortstop, he’d be an all-star. But, as he plays left, he figures to be more or less replacement level. There is also a real possibility that his offense doesn’t come back at all, in which case, he turns into a total disaster in left.
There has been a lot of handwringing about the Reds’ bench this year, but don’t be surprised if Ludwick ends up as the least valuable player on the roster. It probably won’t happen, but it might.