Is Darin Ruf still a "prospect?" Either way, he should make the 2013 Phillies out of spring training.
It is often more exciting to discuss and project results for prospects than for established players.
Ask a Philadelphia Eagles fan if you doubt this. Nick Foles had an intriguing preseason while the Eagles effectively swathed Michael Vick in Bubble Wrap, trying to stave off what turned out to be the inevitable–a disabling Vick injury.
As the Eagles' season started to unravel and Vick became more and more banged up, what started as whispers to "give the kid a chance" developed into conversation and finally ended in a full-throated insistence that Foles take over the starting job as the Eagles' quarterback.
That said, had Vick not been concussed against the Dallas Cowboys, Foles would probably have never seen the field. Three weeks later, Eagles fans realize that maybe that result was preferable.
The Eagles still have not won a game since Vick went down. Foles finished his most recent game against the Carolina Panthers with 119 passing yards and no touchdowns.
In other words, whether you are looking at the National Football League, Major League Baseball or, really, any major professional sports league, the most popular guy is very often the new, exciting prospect who has no track record of failure.
The problem, of course, is that that same new, exciting prospect has no track record of success either.
While we are on the subject, it is normally only teams in the middle of the pack or worse that obsess over prospects. Neither the Washington Nationals nor the Atlanta Braves, both of them 2012 playoff participants, are too hung up this offseason trying to figure out how to squeeze major-league production out of untested players.
Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo recently took the unusual step of announcing as much, saying "We don't have any pressing needs," according to the Washington Post.
That stings if you are a Phillies fan, particularly since the Phillies' GM used to say that sort of thing.
Neither Ruben Amaro Jr. nor Pat Gillick before him had that much to fix. They began with a young, productive nucleus of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels and built from there.
Sadly, those days are over. Oh, sure, all of those guys are back, and there are other high-profile players under contract too (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, et al). But none of them are young anymore, and the piles of money it took to sign them all have left the Phillies employing a "stars-and-scrubs" strategy to field a complete team.
As such, even with well over $100 million in 2013 payroll committed to players, the Phillies still have serious holes in the outfield and at third base. Plus, they will begin the season without their starting catcher as Carlos Ruiz serves his 25-game suspension for violating MLB's policy on banned substances, per ESPN.com.
Because of the expensive free-agent signings and prospect-depleting trades for the likes of Halladay, Lee and Pence, the Phillies can neither spend recklessly nor part with promising minor-league talent to fill their roster gaps.
Further complicating the analysis of which Phillies prospects might make the 2013 roster is the question of whether some of the players that would have been considered "prospects" in the summer of 2012 can still be referred to as such.
For example, last summer, Darin Ruf was teeing off on Eastern League pitching at AA Reading. The Phillies have a need for a right-handed power-hitting left fielder. In the minors, that is what Ruf was. He only played 12 major-league games last year.
So is he still a "prospect"? If so, you can almost guarantee he will make the 2013 roster given the Phillies' outfield needs.
Similarly, Phillippe Aumont went from laboring at AA Reading to making 18 somewhat unexpected appearances with the big club toward the end of the 2012 season. Is Aumont still a "prospect"? Either way, he is very likely to make the team out of spring training.
Domonic Brown has been wearing the "prospect" tag for what seems like half a decade. He is 25 years old now. He only played 56 games for the Phillies last season. Is he still a "prospect"? Because he should make the team, too.
Then there is the bizarre case of Freddy Galvis, who unexpectedly served as the starting second baseman for an injured Utley only to sustain a brutal injury of his own. Galvis' injury was coupled with insult when he was hit with a 50-game drug suspension by MLB in June while he was already on the disabled list, per ESPN.com.
So how do you classify Galvis? But for Utley's injury, Galvis would probably never have seen any major-league time in 2012. He hit .226 in the 58 games he played. Is he still a "prospect"? And did he do enough to deserve a look in 2013, or is he better served finding a competent offensive game at AAA Lehigh Valley?
Aside from these prospects, well, forgive a Phillies fan for not being too sanguine about the other prospects' chances of making the Opening Day roster.
Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle are the two top catching prospects in the Phillies' organization. But that does not mean either Joseph or Valle starts the season in Philadelphia while Ruiz serves out his punishment. They may be better off getting regular work in the minor leagues rather than caddying for the likes of Erik Kratz.
Jonathan Pettibone split his 2012 time between Reading and Lehigh Valley and pitched quite well, but when the Phillies had to replace Vance Worley, it was Tyler Cloyd who got the call.
With Hamels, Halladay, Lee and Worley more or less guaranteed rotation places, and Kyle Kendrick and Cloyd there to vie for the fifth rotation spot, Pettibone's odds of making the 2013 roster (absent an injury) are slim.
Beyond that, the prospects one might hold out the most hope for–Larry Greene Jr. and Carlos Tocci come to mind–are only still beginning their professional careers in earnest.
Ultimately, then, the "prospects" most likely to make the 2013 Phillies roster out of spring training are, if not familiar faces, then certainly not unknown ones.
And the only way most of the Phillies' prospects will find their way to Philadelphia this season would be if the Phillies are once again out of playoff contention in June. Because at that point, the Phillies will start selling off veterans like Halladay and Utley for whatever they will return in trade, and someone will have to finish the season out.
Maybe hoping to see the Phillies' prospects in 2013 is not such a great idea after all.