Position: Left Field / First Base
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Birthday/Age: July 28, 1986 (26)
Ht/Wt: 6' 3", 220 pounds
How he became a Phillie: Drafted by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 2009 Draft.
Defense: Whether you're talking about his defense at first base or in left field, Ruf's defense isn't much to brag about. With Ryan Howard at first base, the Phillies are trying desperately to make Ruf into a left fielder and the experiment is meeting with mixed results. At times, Ruf shows good skills on balls and has learned to take good routes to the ball. At other times, Ruf looks confused and lost in left field, making the experiment look almost like it's already failed. Keep in mind that Ruf hasn't been playing the position for long and he's the type of player who works hard and is willing to take all the coaching he can get.
|Darin Ruf's league comparisons|
|STAT||EASTERN LEAGUE AVERAGES||RUF'S EL NUMBERS|
You'll find plenty of people who will say that the Phillies did just fine with the likes of Greg Luzinski and Pat Burrell - who were both defensively challenged - playing left field. Those people are right, but Ruf's skills right now are below Burrell's and at best, are comparable to Luzinski's. One thing that holds Ruf back defensively is his lack of speed and when you combine that with a lack of instinct to take the correct route to a ball, that spells danger.
Scouting Report: This time last year, Ruf was a good, but not overpowering prospect. Even as late as last July, Ruf was seen as a good power hitter, but locked in either as a first baseman or DH. Ruf did hit 17 home runs at Clearwater in 2011, which is a bit of an accomplishment since the Florida State League is generally a pitcher's league. At the end of July last season, Ruf had 18 home runs at Double-A Reading and took off from there, hitting an historic 20 home runs - tying the record set by Sammy Sosa for home runs in a month by a professional player - in August and setting the franchise record for home runs in a single season. Another home run in the Eastern League playoffs, three more in a September audition with the Phillies and ten more in the Venezuelan Winter League and Ruf hit a grand total of 52 home runs.
The part of Ruf's game that a lot of people forget is that he also hit .317 at Reading and .333 in 33 at-bats with the Phillies. He's got a decent idea of what's a strike and doesn't look to hit every ball 400 feet, giving himself a chance to put the ball in play. Besides the plate discipline, Ruf knows how to work the count and cuts down on his swing with two strikes. He's also able to just hit the ball where it's pitched and will use all fields. Pressure situations don't scare Ruf and he hit .286 with runners in scoring position last season at Reading.
Ceiling: It's likely that Ruf will put up numbers rivaling those of Greg Luzinski when "The Bull" was in his prime in the mid-70s. Luzinski finished with an average of 20 home runs per season and a .276 batting average and Ruf should be able to beat the home run average and possibly improve on the batting average, too. Remember a few years ago when the Phillies tried Ryan Howard in left field and it was a complete failure; Ruf's left field experiment is nowhere near that bad, but you're going to have to accept that he's going to blow a game or two here and there with his weak defensive skills. He will likely get a little better, but not so much that he's ever going to be a plus defensive outfielder.
How far Ruf goes depends completely on his offense, because if he hits with enough power and for a high enough average, Ruf's defense simply won't matter as much.
ETA: It's a long shot that Ruf will make the Phillies out of spring training. One potential scenario is that they keep him with the team until Delmon Young is healthy, but that could open a can of worms if Ruf gets off to a good start, but that would be a good problem to have. Odds are that the Phillies will send Ruf to Triple-A Lehigh Valley - a level he's never played at - and give him some more time to develop. Odds are though that along the line this season, there's going to be an injury or some other opportunity for Ruf to return to the Phillies. Really, he's not quite ready just yet to play in the majors, but he's certainly not far away and with a good season in 2013, he can etch his name in stone for a spot on next year's team.
Darin Ruf's career stats
|Minor League Totals||458||1632||257||498||136||7||67||283||185||337||.305||.386||.520|
|Major League Totals||12||33||4||11||2||1||3||10||2||12||.333||.351||.727|