At 26-years old Darin Ruf is a little old to be considered a prospect. However, when you hit 38 HR in 583 AB at Double-A you are bound to catch some people’s attention. It becomes even more eye catching when you had never shown anything close to that type of power before.
In fact, prior to 2011 Ruff had just 12 HR over 659 AB. He showed some power potential in 2011, with 17 HR in 479 AB, but I don’t think anyone could’ve expected this type of breakout campaign.
With Ryan Howard shutdown early, the Phillies gave Ruff a chance to play regularly down the stretch and he has not disappointed (including 2 HR yesterday). With the ability to play both first base and outfield, especially after the Phillies shed themselves of Shane Victorino and Huter Pence, you have to think that there is a chance he sticks and earns a regular job in 2013. The question is, is his power real or fake?
Before we answer that, it is important to look at the total picture. The power is nice, but he also brings a solid eye to the plate. At Double-A this season he posted a 17.5% strikeout rate and an 11.1% walk rate (nearly matching his marks of 17.3% and 10.4% from Single-A the year before).
While both numbers may regress in the Major leagues, which it has in a short sample size, you would anticipate both to help him to produce at the plate. That is important to note, because if he brings with him the potential to hit .270+ with power, the value s that much greater.
Since he doesn’t bring stolen base potential to the table, let’s get into the crux of the matter, which is his power potential. Granted, while the home runs seemed to come out of nowhere, he did show potential in previous years. At Single-A in 2010 he had 34 doubles in 368 AB. In 2011, repeating the same level, he had 43 doubles to go along with his 17 HR in 479 AB. Seeing a player add power as he matures is not a surprise, so seeing these double totals gives hope that the power is for real (though 20 HR in August make us think that the number is a little bit skewed).
Before we buy into the hype too much, this is what Baseball America’s Jim Callis recently had to say about Ruf in an Ask BA column (click here to viewl):
“He’s a righthanded-hitting first baseman blocked by Ryan Howard, and Ruf’s well below-average speed and subpar arm make even left field a stretch. He’s 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and packed with plenty of strength, though scouts aren’t sure how his uppercut swing will play in the majors. He draws walks and makes reasonable contact, but he’ll have to continue mashing to carve out a role at the top level.”
Is there potential? Absolutely, as we have seen power hitters develop late before. However, if he does have a big uppercut, we can throw the minor league numbers out the window as Major League pitching will expose him. He looks more likely to be a short-term injury fill-in for Howard and role player, at least at this point. I wouldn’t get too excited for 2013, but keep in on your radar.
What are your thoughts of Ruf? Can he be a productive option?