Ring a Diamond in the Rough?

The St. Louis Cardinals new lefty reliever Royce Ring has traveled a similar path to current Cardinal, Todd Wellemeyer. Can pitching coach Dave Duncan work his magic on Ring as well?

One of the St. Louis Cardinals top priorities this off-season was to upgrade the left-side of its much maligned bullpen. Though the team struck out on its top target, Brian Fuentes, it has added some interesting pieces.

The "big" free agent signing to shore up the ‘pen was the signing of former Tampa Bay Ray Trever Miller. Before Miller, the team started rebuilding its pen by claiming Charlie Manning off of waivers. Career minor leaguer Ian Ostlund was brought in as was Japanese leaguer Katsuhiko Maekawa. On Monday, the Cardinals brought in another outcast, former first round selection, Royce Ring.

Ring was selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2002 MLB First Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox. He was considered to the best college closer entering the draft and signed with the Sox for $1.6 million. Since signing and turning professional, he has been a part of four organizations with the Cardinals being his fifth.

At the beginning of the 2008 season, he broke camp with the Atlanta Braves. It was the first time in his career that he would start the season in the majors. On July 6, the native Californian picked up his second win of the season while his ERA dropped to a very respectable 3.44. Unfortunately, he would not pitch for 13 days and then the wheels would come off. He would give up 16 runs in his next four innings spanning eight appearances. The day after giving up three runs in an inning against Milwaukee, the Braves would designate him for assignment on August 2. No team bothered to claim him off waivers and he would return to the Triple-A Richmond.

Ring has always somewhat interested me after seeing him in the 2003 Futures Game. Here is what I said in November when looking at Minor League lefty free agents:

Royce Ring

The former first round pick was roughed up in 42 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2008. In 42 games, he was tagged with an 8.46 ERA. At Triple-A, Ring posted an ERA of 3.00 while holding his opponents to a .167 average. Ring has always had a live arm but control issues have delayed his career. Good be worth a flier as a Duncan-project.

When looking at Ring's career, I couldn't help but notice how similar his numbers were to another underachieving pitcher who had bounced around organizations, Todd Wellemeyer. Of course, Wellemeyer is coming off a season in which he won a career high 13 games in 191.2 innings, also a career best. But remember, he was a struggling reliever who could not hack it in the Kansas City Royals' bullpen when the Cardinals claimed him off of waivers on May 15, 2007.

Like Wellemeyer, Ring is 28 years old and struggling to find a home. But besides age, their minor league numbers are very similar. In the minors, both posted a 2.4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ring logged 8.6 K/9 IP while Wellemeyer was slightly better at 9.6. Though Ring struggled with his command (3.6 BB/9 IP), it was still slightly better than Wellemeyer's mark of 4 BB/9 IP. Ring was slightly better in hits per nine innings with a mark of 7.6, a hit less per nine than Wellemeyer.

Though Wellemeyer had pitched more innings (180 to 65.2), their Major League numbers before joining the Cardinals are very similar. Both averaged a 1.4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Ring logged 7.2 K/9 IP while Wellemeyer posted 7.8. Ring was slightly better in walks per nine with an average of 5.5 compared to 6.1. The hits per nine were very close with an 8.5 average for Ring compared to Wellemeyer allowing 8.9.

The comparisons are interesting but the bottom line is production. Wellemeyer has definitely flourished under pitching coach Dave Duncan. But can the same be expected of Ring?

Minor League Career

K-to-BB – Ring (2.4-1) vs Wellemeyer (2.4-to-1)
K/9 IP - Ring (8.6) vs Wellemeyer (9.6)
BB/9 IP – Ring (3.6) vs Wellemeyer (4.0)
H/9 IP - Ring (7.6) vs Wellemeyer (8.6)

Major League Career (Pre Cardinals)

Innings Ring (65.2) vs Wellemeyer (180)
ERA Ring (4.93) vs Wellemeyer (5.60)
K-to-BB Ring (1.4-to-1) vs Wellemeyer (1.4-to-1)
K/9 IP Ring (7.2) vs Wellemeyer (7.8)
BB/9 IP Ring (5.5) vs Wellemeyer (6.1)
H/9 IP Ring (8.5) vs Wellemeyer (8.9)

It could be that Royce Ring is another diamond in the rough, just waiting for pitching coach Dave Duncan to work his magic again.

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