If Major League Baseball created an award for the Most Surprising Player of the Year, 2008's winner would have to be St. Louis Cardinals' outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
In case anyone missed it, Ludwick hit his 28th homer of the season Tuesday night, which is now double his previous season-high of 14 (set last season). With ample playing time, this 30-year old from Satellite Florida is making many in the sport ask, "Where did he come from?"
Well, he came from Florida. Ludwick was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 2nd round of the 1999 draft, though he never played in the Major Leagues with the A's. Before the 2002 season, the A's sent Ludwick to the Rangers along with Gerald Laird and two other players for Carlos Pena and Mike Venafro. He made his debut in June of that season, but never really made much of his opportunity in Texas.
So, in the middle of the '03 season, he was dealt to Cleveland Ricardo Rodriguez and Shane Spencer (remember him?). He spent the next 1 1/2 seasons with the Indians, hitting a combined 13 home runs.
After spending 2006 in the Tigers' farm system, Ludwick signed on with the Cardinals where he has been ever since. He has won the heart of manager Tony LaRussa and has become a versatile and dangerous threat with the Cardinals. For most of this season, he has been in the midst of a platoon with Rick Ankiel, Skip Schumaker and Chris Duncan. And even with this platoon, he's managed to have a career-year.
Now, with Duncan out for the year, Ludwick expects to have more playing time, and there is no reason not expect 30-40 homers by the end of the season. Chew on this:
Coming into action tonight, Ludwick has 28 home runs. The Cardinals have 46 games remaining in 2008. In his first 46 games of this season, Ludwick hit 13 home runs. If we do a little quick math, that means if Ludwick can come even somewhat close to that kind of production in that time span, he should surpass 35 dingers.
Raise your hand if you predicted Ryan Ludwick would finish 2008 with close to 40 home runs. That's what I thought. Who predicted this guy would have this kind of season? How could anyone predict it? This guy now has as many homers this season as he had hit entire career coming into 2008. So, most surprising player of the year? Ryan Ludwick...hands down!