2013 Phillies Report Card: Darin Ruf
Let’s do this as an acrostic.
- Defense. So I know the Phillies played Delmon Young in right field 64 times last year, so it looks like they don’t care about outfield defense. The hope was that Ruf could be a backup corner outfielder as well as a first baseman, but let’s be real: he’s an Easter Island statue out there. It’s not that he’s particularly fat or that he doesn’t try hard, but sometimes big things don’t accelerate or change direction well. If you’ve ever seen a cruise ship, you know this.
- Age. Ruf famously didn’t even make AA until age 26, but he’s made the most of his opportunities since then. He’s hit quite well since then, including a 125 wRC+ as about a half-time player this season. To a certain extent, the questions about Ruf’s age don’t really matter anymore–he’s starting to build a major league track record, so we can judge him as a 27-year-old big leaguer now, instead of arguing over what he has left to project.
- Righty power. The Phillies have been fairly lefty-heavy in the middle of the order even going back to the days of Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu. We probably make too much of this, but Ryan Howard‘s platoon splits couldn’t be more noticeable if he’d divided a group of about 40 soldiers. Assuming we’ve seen the last of John Mayberry and Carlos Ruiz, no returning right-handed hitter with 100 plate appearances comes within 50 points of Ruf’s OBP or 70 points of Ruf’s slugging percentage.
- I can’t think of one for this. Spell your name like a normal person, Darin.
- Not making contact. When you’re trying to read the tea leaves of 330 career plate appearances, you should break into the peripheral stats. Ruf’s enjoyed a modicum of batted ball luck, but it’s not like he’s got a career .565 BABIP we’re waiting to cool off. The big alarm is his 31.2% strikeout rate, which is a tremendous number. You can live with a player who strikes out three times in every 10 plate appearances if he hangs a double-digit walk rate, as Ruf has, and hits on a pace for around 30 home runs a year, which Ruf also does. But if those numbers, either the walk rate, strikeout rate or home run rate, starts to go sour, Ruf could find his major league career shortened significantly. Or he could find himself on the receiving end of a three-year, $10 million contract. Because these are the Phillies and you never know.
- Reward. What the Phillies should do for Ruf, in the form of playing time. When a college senior you drafted in the 20th round even makes the majors, that’s a pretty wise expenditure of a draft pick. That he could hit at an above-average clip makes him found money, and I say the Phillies should let it ride until he stops hitting.
- Unexpected. I’ll wear it–I never thought Ruf would force the Phillies to even think about keeping him around going into 2014. Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.
- Funds. Insofar as Ruf doesn’t require many of them. Much better for the Phillies to have Ruf for the league minimum than someone like Jose Abreu for eight figures a year.
EDIT: I originally forgot the grades (and the title) for this post, so here they are:
My Grade: A