Thursday, August 16, 2012

Darin Ruf: Future cheap bench player

Darin Ruf has been on a tear lately and all season, really. Both Tyler Cloyd and Ruf have been battling each other throughout the season for the title of "semi-prospect fans bring up to make themselves look more intelligent than they are." Of course if you bring up Adam Morgan or Julio Rodriguez to them, expect some stutter and stammering. For as great Ruf has been this year, tearing up the Eastern League(173 wRC+) by a wide margin(2nd at 141 wRC+), he still remains pretty much a non-prospect because of his defensive liabilities and age(26).

As much as sports radio callers want to suggest him in the outfield, he cannot play there. He's strictly limited to first-base, and not a good first-base at that. Although, I don't think he can be much worse than Howard at this point.

History is also not on his side. In recent memory, I cannot recall any minor leaguers near his age(25-27) who tore up Double-A with a similar skill set. Before you say Ryan Howard, he was 24 in his full season with Reading. At 26, Ruf is just entering his prime and still not that close to the majors, unless Amaro wants to be aggressive and leapfrog Triple-A. The closest examples I came across that had similar season in Double-A at his age and then made it to the majors were Clint Robinson, Jake Fox, Lou Montanez, and Josh Whitesell.   Of that group, Jake Fox has had the longest career, playing 193 games while hitting .237/.288/.425.

While stardom, or even good starter(it's not like RAJ could ever trade Howard and his contract anyway), doesn't appear destined, a player like Ruf is what this team needs the future. Instead of spending a million or two for a bench player, the Phillies can fill their bench with cheap, controlled players who still can serve a purpose. If I had an option of paying a Ross Gload-esque player $1.5 million, or a Darin Ruf about $400,000, I'm going with Ruf every time. Fortunately, Ruf is also a right-handed hitter which should come in handy in a few years as Howard further deteriorates and a more frequent platoon is needed.

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