He has a .989 OPS, with 32 homers and 98 RBI. Consistent all season, he's been even better in the second half, raising his average above .300. He can play all three outfield positions and, at 30, is presumably in the prime of his career.
And no one's talking about him.
Certainly that'll change, once the market shakes out and people realize Ryan Ludwick is among those available. He signed to a one-year deal in March with the Cards, who are notoriously cheap. And with big things expected from outfield prospect Colby Rasmus, they'll probably let Ludwick walk, assuming he gets some lucrative offers.
The right-handed slugger is exactly what the Braves outfield needs. About the only other significant option will be Pat Burrell, who is two years older than Ludwick and has limitations. He'll probably get bigger offers, considering his career numbers.
That's the problem with Ludwick. Despite gaudy minor league numbers, he has no resume. He only got the chance to play regularly this season because the Cards were desperate. So is 2008 an aberration?
Is he the next Bob Hamelin or Luis Gonzalez (minus the juice)? Late bloomers typically follow Hamelin's path: Rookie of the Year at age 27, Scott Thorman after. Some more recent examples: Mark DeRosa, good; Gary Matthews Jr., bad.
But Ludwick's numbers are special. He'll likely finish in the top five for MVP, and his second-round selection by Oakland in 1999 suggests the potential was aways there.
I haven't seen him play enough to reach a conclusion, but I think Frank Wren should place special emphasis on upside (ex.: Snell, Ian) this offseason. At Ludwick's age, I don't know if "upside" is an apt description, but he could be the right player at the right price.
Or he could be another Jeffrey Hammonds, who snagged a rich deal from Milwaukee after one good year in Colorado, when he was 31. As a Brewer, the oft-injured former Orioles prospect totaled only 16 homers and 65 RBI in two-plus seasons, never hitting better than .257.
Tough call on Ludwick, but I'm seriously intrigued.