Tommy Joseph Promoted, Darin Ruf Sent Down, Probably
(The original headline of this story implied Darin Ruf had been demoted, because it seems likely and because I am an idiot who forgot to fix it before posting. Sorry, Darin.)
Tommy Joseph, the primary return in the Phillies 2012 trade of Hunter Pence to San Francisco, had his contract selected from Lehigh Valley and will join the club as they begin a nine-game home stand tonight against Cincinnati, according to Jayson Stark and a bunch of the Philly beats. Joseph ever making his MLB debut was far from anyone’s mind just three months ago, but his play in Spring Training and the AAA regular season has certainly warranted the call-up, and his long struggle against injury makes his impending debut, likely tonight against Brandon Finnegan, quite the feel-good story. Really, I feel good about it. Not like, I just got an N64 for Christmas, but pretty good.
Joseph, pictured here in what has to be a photo sent from his first year managing Lehigh Valley in 2029, is just 24 years old this year. He has been off his game the past few days, going just 2 for his last 16, but he’s had quite a start to 2016 at the plate. He has seven doubles and six homers, to go with lackluster BB Rate of 4% and a good K Rate of 12% in 100 PAs. His .981 OPS ranks him at the top of the International League, and he’s hit his way to a crazy 196 wRC+.
Of course, when Joseph arrived in Phils organization, he was a catching prospect with an uncertain defensive skill set, but a plus power tool that he’d shown off with 22 HR as a 19-year-old in High-A the year before. Those 22 still tied him the sixth in the admittedly hitter-friendly Cal League, and he was one of only three even semi-regular contributors who played the league that year at age 19 (along with Jon Singleton and Chris Owings). His leadership skills were lauded as well, but upon arrival with the Phils, he suffered repeated concussions on foul tips behind the plate. Those head injuries eventually ended his catching days, and wrist surgery late in 2014 slowed him further. He took less than 600 PAs from 2013-2015. He was outrighted off the 40-Man Roster last fall but invited to big league camp this year and began to stake his claim for a possible call-up as a first baseman.
To make room for Joseph on the 25-man roster, 2012’s feel-good story Darin Ruf will likely be optioned to Lehigh Valley. Ruf gained traction towards a big league career in a successful 2011 at Clearwater and a trip that fall to the AFL. He cemented a call-up with a monster of a 2012, where he OPSed 6.902 or something at Reading. Joseph joined Ruf there in July that year after the Pence Trade, and Ruf even reportedly started his historic August hot streak after either borrowing a bat from Joseph or winning one from him in a friendly wager, and liking it so much he got a bunch of his own. Or as we looked at it when I was at PhuturePhillies.com – Darin Ruf was swinging Tommy Joseph’s Magic Bat. Hyperbolic, I suppose. A little.
Ruf has never really proven himself as an everyday player in the big leagues. He showed a reverse platoon split in 2013, OPSing .863 versus RHP in a decent sample of close to 200PAs. But that success versus righties did not hold up in subsequent years, and he hasn’t OPSed higher than .714 in a season since. His defense in the outfield has been described as “ugh, why?” and “faaaaaaart” on Twitter and the blogosphere, and “insufficient” and “aww dude, him?” in old media. His glove at first is not much of an improvement over even Ryan Howard (DRS says it’s not any better, though Ruf’s 2015 was a fairly small sample compared to Howard), and his bat this year has been about as bad as is possible without getting shipped out, compiling a wOBA of .182 (yikes) and a wRC+ of 4 (yes, that’s just 4, I didn’t mistype a 64 or even a 44. It’s freaking 4). It seems like he should be out of options by now, but the club didn’t have to use one in 2015 because he spent less than the required 20 days in the minors, so he can head to Lehigh Valley and try to play himself back into contention for a big league role.
When I thought the club needed a roster spot for Joseph, I wrote this, and it would be a shame if it wasn’t used, even though it’s false now because Cedric Hunter was outrighted off the 40-man: Pitcher Charlie Morton, whose obliterated hamstring, in the context of the DH debate, is apparently no rhetorical match for a jolly obese man hopped up on stem cells hitting a home run, was sent to the 60-day DL to make room for Joseph on the 40-man roster.