Darin Ruf Has No Baseball Skills Other Than Hitting a Baseball

jstolnis
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The Philadelphia Phillies do not like players who can hit a baseball with great force and frequency. How else to explain their insistence on keeping Baseballtown’s slugging first baseman mired in AA?

Oh wait. They needed to make room for Hector Luna. OK, got it. Never mind, y’all.

Chances are, if you’re a frequenter of the Twitterweb, you know all about Darin Ruf. He’s the guy threatening for the Eastern League triple crown, the guy who hit two more home runs in Monday night’s game for Reading, giving him 27 for the season. He’s also hitting .310 with 79 RBIs. He has four homers in his last three games and seven in his last nine.

And, apparently, he sucks.

At least, that’s according to really smart baseball people who cover the minor leagues for a living, who have called Ruf just “an organizational guy” and “too old to be considered a Major League player” and “only useful if you need someone to whack at a Mexican pinata at your child’s 4th birthday party.”

With the Phillies about a billion games out of first place in the NL East and the playoffs out of the realm of possibility, why aren’t the Phillies giving Ruf a closer look? With outfielder Nate Schierholtz on the DL with a big toe ouchie, why did the Phillies call up 32-year-old Hector Luna to take his spot on the roster?

If Darin Ruf, at 26 years old, is too old, then how old does that make Luna?

Oh wait, there’s probably more to Luna’s game that we haven’t gotten a chance to see yet. I’m sure if we just give Luna another few years, we’ll finally be able to see him blossom. Man, that’s gonna be one sweet payoff.

It would be one thing if Ruf’s outstanding 2012 season was an aberration. I could certainly see reluctance to get too excited about him if that were the case. But Ruf has been a consistently good offensive player ever since he signed with the Phillies (see table below… it’s right in front of you… seriously, LOOK AT IT!).

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2009222 Teams2 LgsA–RkPHI5720117622542003301730.307.383.472.855
200922PhilliesGULFRkPHI205043514300638.326.400.395.795
200922WilliamsportNYPLA-PHI3715113317401703241422.301.377.496.874
2010232 Teams2 LgsA+-APHI1295474837014041596747110.290.363.451.814
201023LakewoodSALLAPHI321411152538734172123.330.443.548.991
201023ClearwaterFLORA+PHI97406368451023425502687.277.335.421.756
201124ClearwaterFLORA+PHI1335544847214943117825695.308.388.506.894
201225ReadingELAAPHI1174894067512529125765786.308.402.569.971
4 Seasons43617911549239468133754255177321.302.383.502.885
A+ (2 seasons)A+2309608521172517732213282182.295.366.469.835
A (1 season)A321411152538734172123.330.443.548.991
AA (1 season)AA1174894067512529125765786.308.402.569.971
Rk (1 season)Rk205043514300638.326.400.395.795
A- (1 season)A-3715113317401703241422.301.377.496.874

He’s a career .302 hitter who hit 17 HRs a year ago. He’s batted over .300 every year in the minors except one, when he hit .290. His power has gotten better each year.

Is it really out of the realm of possibility that the Phillies started him off a level or two too low in the minors, which is why he’s a 26-year-old in AA? Is it at all possible the brilliant minds who run the Phils’ minor league system misjudged one of their players?

Here’s the main point. The Phillies are out of the playoff picture this year, but they fully expect to contend in 2013. This is may be a one-time opportunity to see what kind of talent a guy like Ruf has.

Why waste that time on Hector Luna?

Of course, the minor league observers skeptical of Ruf may be correct. Perhaps he is simply another Mike Costanzo or Matt Rizzoti. That’s entirely possible, and in fact, maybe probable. But how do you know for sure until you give the guy a shot?

At the very least, why wasn’t he promoted to LeHigh Valley when Brown was called up? That one makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Aside from his age, the other negative Ruf’s critics point to is his defense. He’s a decent first baseman by all accounts, but lacks range as a left fielder. And of course, the Phillies don’t want to put somebody out in left field who’s going to embarrass themselves. That’s why they sent Dom Brown down to the minors at the start of the season (correctly, by the way).

But if limited range is the only problem with Ruf’s defense, the Phillies certainly lived with limited range from Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez, but benefited from their offensive abilities at the same time. So limited range is not the end of the world.

The Ruf critics may be entirely correct in all their assumptions. And, to be fair, I have not seen Ruf play, so I can’t sit here and say that he’s even a Major League 24th man with any certainty. But the possibility exists that Ruf’s critics are wrong.

All I know is there is a positional minor league player, playing in a decent league, absolutely raking for an organization that has absolutely no offensive positional talent anywhere to be found. A player, by the way, that has done nothing but rake since he joined the organization.

All Darin Ruf does is kill baseballs. Let’s see if he can do it against Major League pitching. Especially since the Phillies have nothing to lose.

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