by Jeff Moore
There was a time this winter when it looked like Darin Ruf was going to get a chance to show the Phillies what he could do in the major leagues in 2013, but a few months and a Delmon Young signing later and those opportunities appear to be few and far between.
For most of December and January, the Phillies appeared prepared to enter the season with platoons in both corner outfield positions. After adding Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins to man center field, the Phillies were left with four flawed pieces - lefties Laynce Nix and Domonic Brown, neither of whom can hit lefties, and righties John Mayberry and Darin Ruf, the former of whom can't hit righties and the latter, who may not be able to play the outfield.
The hope for the 26 year-old Ruf and his supporters (the Ruf Riders? Sorry, but there's been worse in Philly) is that he can still find some at-bats in Philly, but after Young was added to the mix, those platoon situations became a little more confusing. With Young likely to start the season on the DL recovering from ankle surgery, opportunity could present itself but the window could close quickly.
Despite the fact that Young has a career .708 OPS against right-handed pitchers and should be in a platoon of his own (which should be a DH platoon, by the way), the Phillies have already penciled Young in as their starting right fielder once he's healthy, effectively ending the quasi-starting role of at least two of the players above. This puzzling decision leaves just one platoon remaining in left field where one of the lefties (likely Brown) will get the lion’s share of at-bats, at least until he proves he’s not worthy of them, and Mayberry likely getting the right-handed at-bats. Mayberry will win out over Ruf because of his ability to serve as the team’s back-up center fielder.
All of which leaves Ruf in the dark.
In reality, Ruf should be in a platoon of his own, but it should be at first base with Ryan Howard. Of course, we know this isn’t going to happen.
Unless something changes, Nix will probably be the only left-handed pinch-hitting option on most days, and unless the Phillies decide to carry six outfielders (classifying Ruf as an outfielder), the numbers simply don’t work out well for Ruf.
The signing of Young has been both lauded as a low-risk value and criticized because of Young’s complete lack of value as an all-around baseball player. In the case of the Phillies, they have signed a poor defensive corner outfielder who can’t hit right-handed pitching – or, in other words, the worst-case scenario of what Ruf could turn out to be.
The Phillies clearly aren’t sure what they have in Ruf, but sending him to Triple-A isn’t going to help them figure it out. Can he play the outfield? Was the power for real? Is he a platoon player or can he play every day? I don’t know the answer to these questions any more than the Phillies or anyone else, but I would like to figure them out.
Jeff Moore is the creator of MLBProspectWatch.com, your one-stop site for all the information you need about minor league prospects. He can be reached via e-mail at mlbprospectwatch AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter at @MLBPW.