The situation: The Phillies are clearly out of the running this season and are beginning to look at in-house options that could be a part of their 2013 plans. Darin Ruf is not viewed as a top prospect by any stretch, but since Philadelphia has nothing to lose by giving him playing time, there’s a chance that Ruf generates some short-term buzz and excitement in an otherwise disappointing season.
Background: A native of Omaha, NE, Ruf played college ball at Creighton, and the Phillies selected him in the 20th round of the 2009 draft. He excelled as a college hitter in the New York-Penn League in 2009, then hit well enough to earn a mid-season promotion from Low- to High-A early in 2010. He tapped into some of his power in 2011, with 17 round-trippers and 43 doubles in 554 PAs. In total, Ruf entered 2012 as a 25-year-old first baseman who had just 29 home runs in over 1,300 minor-league plate appearances. This season, he led the minor leagues with 38 home runs, posting a .317/.408/.620 line at Double-A Reading.
What he can do: Ruf has a knack for hitting baseballs with the right part of the bat. He’s a big, strong kid with a decent approach at the plate, but major-league pitching should be able to exploit his strength-heavy swing. He has what it takes to exploit mistakes at the plate, but he has no defensive position. Ruf can’t play the outfield, and doesn’t have the athleticism or footwork to play first base. All of his value lies in his suspect hit and power tools.
Immediate big league future: Ruf should get the chance to play for the Phillies, but it’s unclear exactly how they’ll use him. We learned not too long ago that Ruf intrigued Manager Charlie Manuel, so the call-up comes as no surprise, but playing Ruf regularly will mean benching Ryan Howard or one of the club’s corner outfielders, so he may be relegated to a pinch-hitting role.
Long-term: Ruf could be up and down for a few years for a few clubs looking for depth in Triple-A, and has a chance to compete for MVP awards in Japan in a few years. There’s a non-zero chance that he proves the doubters wrong and finds success at the major league-level, but there’s also a non-zero chance Roseanne Barr gives an outstanding speech at her inauguration in January.