The Philadelphia Phillies have several holes that they needed to fill in the 2012 offseason. This is partially due to the subpar performance of the 2012 where they decided to trade away two outfielders and a starting pitcher. Those players are Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Joe Blanton, respectively.
Since the offseason has started, Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has sought to fill those holes along with the hole at the back end of the inconsistent bullpen.
So far, Amaro has filled three of those holes: first by trading for Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins to play centerfield and then for Michael Young from the Texas Rangers to third base, as that was a position of inconsistent performance in 2012 as well and one that saw eight different players cover during throughout the year. Last week, Amaro also filled the bullpen hole by signing free agent Mike Adams.
Amaro has been looking for a corner outfielder that can provide consistent offense and play strong defense. The free agent market has been unflattering, except Josh Hamilton who has already signed with the Los Angeles Angels. The price of any outfielder seems higher than Amaro wants to pay and probably higher than those players would receive if there were better talent on the market.
With the free agent market drying up and trade agents seemingly shutting down, Amaro has looked at internal options for the outfield.
Three options that he has are the frustratingly inconsistent Domonic Brown, who has yet to live up to the potential stamped on him when he was regarded as a top prospect, John Mayberry Jr. who has also been inconsistent, but shown flashes of how well he can play given an everyday starter job (see more in a forthcoming story) and Darin Ruf, who seemed to come out of nowhere after blowing up in AA Reading this past season.
The general consensus is that Ruf will have a fair shot at earning an everyday or platoon spot on the Phillies roster in left field. People have compared him to Pat Burrell in his prime. The 26-year-old has a lot of pop from the right side of the plate, which was one major vacancy in the Phillies roster all of last year with the exception of Carlos Ruiz. Now, Ruf has an extremely limited amount of major league experience, but all signs point to the fact that he can contribute on a daily basis.
No matter where he played in 2012, all he did was drive in runs. In AA Reading he hit 38 home runs and drove in 104 runs. When he finally got a chance to play in nine Phillies games last year, he managed to hit three home runs and drive in 10 runs. He then played in the Venezuelan Winter League where he broke the record for home runs with 10 and drove in 27 runs. Through all the leagues he played in, he has averaged at least one hit per game.
Overall, in the minors this year, across 489 at bats, Ruf hit for .317 average, with a .620 slugging percentage, and a 1.028 OPS. In those at bats, he hit 38 home runs, 32 doubles, and had 104 RBIs. He also had a 120:65 strikeout to walk ratio. When he made his debut in the majors, he continued with his natural slugging ability by hitting for a .333 average, with 3 home runs, 2 doubles and 10 RBIs across 33 at bats. Then in Winter League he hit for an average of .258 with 10 home runs, 27 RBIs, and 8 doubles across 120 at bats in 33 games.
He is also a substantial defender at left field or first base. He is not going to be the best defender in the game, but he brings an above average ability to play his zone and brings a great deal to the plate overall. So, regardless of the fact that he is a first baseman and not a true outfielder, would the Phillies be risking it by “Ruffing it in left field,” or would he be the answer for power that was missing from the right side of the plate and left field in all of 2012?
He is an average defender, but he has been hitting the ball like an all-star all season. If he can perform like he has shown he can, the Phillies are much better with him in left field than any option they would find on the market. For example, he drove in the last eight runs against the Nationals that the Phillies had in 2012 across four games. Ruf has shown enough to be the Phillies left fielder for 2013.
The question for left field has been answered. The only question should be is what will be done in right field.