Darin Ruf began the 2012 season as a marginal prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system. There is only one person who believed that he would hit more home runs this year than he did during his three previous years in professional baseball combined.
That person wasn’t sitting in the Double-A Reading Phillies’ stands this season, isn’t a scout or a member of the parent club’s front office. Ruf believed in himself. Because he did it has become possible that he could gain a spot on the Phillies’ 25-man major league roster as soon as next spring.
Summer baseball nights
I kept my focus on third baseman Cody Asche when I attended some Double-A games in the early part of the summer. He was the positional player who had been hyped as the Phillies’ potential hot corner occupant in the not-too-distant future.
Asche has size, exhibits good baseball instincts on the field and at the plate and posted good numbers at two levels (including Single-A) this year. I also liked the arm strength that he showed when he fired the ball to his first baseman after making some backhand plays. That first baseman was Ruf by the way.
During those nights, Ruf seemed to be one of the many faceless individuals who passed through the minor leagues over the years. Tremendous athletes in their own regard, but never good enough to actually make their mark in the major league game.
Then, something incredible happened as the summer played out. “Babe Ruf” began hitting the ball like no one had in Reading Phillies’ history, including Ryan Howard. That created a strategic position switch to left field in August.
By the time the season had ended, Ruf surpassed the Double-A franchise record (37 home runs) that Howard established in 2004. After hitting 38 regular season home runs (and one playoff home run) for Reading, Ruf hit three more in Philadelphia and another nine in the Venezuelan Fall League through November 11.
There aren’t many power hitters in all of minor league baseball who’s trade value is higher than Ruf’s is right now. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. might decide to leverage his potential in a deal this offseason in order to fill one of his team’s needs.
If he isn’t traded, Ruf could suffer an injury in spring training, or simply perform poorly and begin the season in Triple-A. If he isn’t traded, remains healthy and has a reasonably good spring showing, he should be on the Phillies’ major league roster when the 2013 season begins.
Considering the historic power this player has already generated, the Phillies’ need for right-handed balance in their lineup and the low-cost payroll certainty this specific player embodies, Ruf appears to fit nicely into the team’s current plans.
I saw Ruf play a number of games in left field and was impressed. I believe that his baseball intelligence will allow him to handle his defensive duties in the major leagues as well.
Ruf should and hopefully will become the Phillies’ platoon left fielder in 2013. Eventually, we’ll learn if he can also become a full-time outfield option.
Sean O’Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons’ front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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