Let’s see… low on-base percentage… check. Lack of power from the corner outfield position… check. A shortage of right-handed bats with thump in the middle of the lineup… check.
I say all this to say this about Darin Ruf. So far, in the short sample size of 67 career MLB games and 256 plate appearances, Ruf has provided all three of those missing elements.
Sunday’s game-winning home run to right-center field off Atlanta right-hander David Carpenter was Ruf’s 13th of the season in just 219 plate appearances. He’s also drawn 25 walks so far this year, and has a slash line of .250/.352/.500. If you extrapolate those numbers to 550 PAs, Ruf would have about 32-33 and about 63 walks.
So, there are the home runs and the on-base percentage and the slugging percentage. And while his defense at either corner outfield spot isn’t what one would deem “good,” it’s certainly at “Pat Burrell levels of acceptance.”
Keep in mind that Ruf has always managed to get on base. Ruf’s career minor league on-base percentage was .380, and we all know about his home run history. He’s currently doing what he had been doing in the minor leagues. Nothing more, nothing less.
Yes, Ruf strikes out a ton, with 68 Ks already this year. That would equate to about 170 strikeouts a year. And so far this year, with 55 PAs with runners in scoring position (SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT!) Ruf’s slash line of .143/.327/.310, with 2 HRs and 1 2B, isn’t too hot. But one has to believe that would get a bit better as he accumulates more plate appearances.
And Ruf is a pull-heavy groundball hitter, which will probably result in teams going to a right-handed shift against him at some point in the near future.
There are undoubtedly negative aspects to Ruf’s game. But if he had enough at-bats to qualify, he would be the team leader in on-base percentage, besting Chase Utley‘s .343 mark. He’s already third on the team in home runs.
So, what’s holding us back from giving Ruf the everyday job? If Darin Ruf had been considered a Top 100 prospect coming into the year and was putting up these numbers, no one would have any trouble handing him a corner outfield job in 2014, at least as part of a partial platoon.
The Phillies are going to have to make a decision on how big a role Ruf should play next year with a limited sample of at bats on which to go. Will have they seen enough to avoid spending free agent dollars on a player like Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran, or somebody else? Or do they trust that the on-base skills and power Ruf has demonstrated in his admittedly short career is enough to let him play a corner outfield spot almost every day next year?
Certainly, Ruf has provided some of what the Phillies have been lacking most the last couple years.
Whether it’s small-sample size fools good remains to be seen.