Phillies: What happened to Darin Ruf?

Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

The Phillies never got much from a guy who hit 38 home runs in 2012

All Phillies fans wanted in the summer of 2012 was to see Darin Ruf on the big league team. He was a kid who came out of nowhere and was putting up ridiculous numbers in the minor leagues, numbers that made fans salivate at the thought.

But when it was all said and done, Ruf faded off into the baseball sunset never to be heard from again.

So, what happened to Darin Ruf?

Ruf was originally drafted by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft from Creighton University. As a senior he hit .347 with eight home runs, a decent amount in college. A native of Nebraska he looked like Paul Bunyan at 6’3, 250 lbs with raw “country” strength.

In the minors Ruf hit more for average than he did power, averaging .298 in his first two seasons between rookie and A+ ball. What really stood out were the doubles, hitting 61 in 89 professional games.

Larry Bowa says when young guys are hitting doubles, those will eventually turn into home runs. That’s exactly what happened for Ruf in his third season in the minor leagues.

In 2011 Ruf hit 17 home runs with a .308 batting average, but it still didn’t get him much attention from Phillies fans or the major publications. But that next year? That’s when it all changed for Ruf.

When a guy goes to Double-A Reading you know their home run numbers are going to skyrocket. Coming off a 23 home run season for Clearwater in 2003, Ryan Howard dropped 37 balls over the fence in Reading.

Phillies fans should be used to seeing the home run numbers go up in a sandbox ballpark that is FirstEnergy Stadium and its 330 ft. foul poles. Tommy Joseph did it, Dylan Cozens did it, and so did Ruf.

In 139 games Ruf hit 38 home runs in 2012, 25 more than any other player on his team. The next four guys (Sebastian Valle, Cody Asche, Leandro Castro, and Jiwan James) on the home run list in Reading that season combined to hit 39 home runs.

MLB Pipeline would rank Ruf as the 18th best prospect in Philadelphia behind names such as Jesse Biddle, Brody Colvin, Larry Greene, Phillippe Aumont, and many many other busts that forced the Phillies into a long rebuild.

MIAMI, FL – AUGUST 15: Hector Luna #29 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a RBI double in the sixth inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 15, 2012 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Marlins defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 9-2. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – AUGUST 15: Hector Luna #29 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a RBI double in the sixth inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 15, 2012 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Marlins defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 9-2. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images) /

Every night Phillies fans would check the Reading box score to see how many more home runs Ruf had hit. With Howard coming off the torn Achillies’ tendon the Phillies played a mix of (get this) Jim Thome, Hector Luna, Ty Wiggington, John Mayberry and Lance Nix at first base.

Needless to say, those last guys aren’t scaring you when they step into the batter’s box, and Thome was at the end of his Hall of Fame career.

Ruf would finally make his highly-anticipated Major League debut in front of 17,000 fans in Houston on Friday, September 14, 2012. Pinch-hitting for Justin De Fratus in the top of the ninth up 12-5, Ruf popped out to third on the second pitch he saw.

After starting his career 0-3 in pinch-hit roles, Ruf made his first Major League start in Philadelphia on September 25 as a left fielder. His first career hit was a home run off Ross Detwiler in the second inning.

With Howard still the everyday first baseman and Ruf not being the greatest outfielder, the 25-year-old would start 2013 down in the minors. He returned just a couple weeks before his birthday in July and hit 14 home runs, some of them moonshots.

Ruf had his chances to establish himself as an everyday big league player. In 2015 he appeared in 106 games, but he couldn’t unseat Howard as the full-time first baseman. His batting average was never the same as it was in the minors and his defense in the outfield .

Just time Joseph and Cozens, Ruf would fade away as a power hitter who couldn’t play a position other than first.

On November 11, 2016, Ruf was traded by the Phillies with Darnell Sweeney to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Howie Kendrick. After that trade, he never played another big league game again and practically disappeared.

Only a couple months after the trade, Los Angeles would sell Ruf’s contract to the Samsung Lions of the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) League.

Now in his 30s, Ruf found his swing in Korea and hit for both power and average with 86 home runs and a .313 batting average in three seasons overseas.

Ruf has made his way back stateside, signing a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants and was a non-roster invitee in spring training for Gabe Kapler.

Before the season was shutdown Ruf was playing very well in spring training, hitting .429 with three home runs in 14 games before the league shut down.

It’s good to see Ruf still in the game chasing his dreams of being an everyday big league player. He’s a guy Kapler might fall in love with and push to make an expanded roster whenever baseball returns.

Lacking positional flexibility and hype certainly didn’t help Ruf in Philadelphia, and neither did the team holding onto Ryan Howard as long as they did. They honestly should have cut ties with Howard and let him extend his career in the American League while letting Ruf get a full season at first base.

Next. Greatest Player to Wear Every Number in Phillies History. dark

Ultimately, Ruf goes down as a “legend” of the mid-2010s Phillies who fell on the backside of the greatest era in team history and will forever be a “that guy” when people look back at the roster years from now.