Is Darin Ruf really a "prospect" when he is probably the starting left fielder?
The only way to make sense of which of the Phillies' prospects should make the Opening Day roster is to work backwards.
Per ESPN.com's depth chart for the Phillies—as accurate a predictor as any—the Phillies have the following 24 players likely to be in uniform on April 1, 2013 at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves:
Catcher: Erik Kratz, Humberto Quintero
First base: Ryan Howard
Second base: Chase Utley
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins
Third Base: Michael Young
Utility Infielders: Kevin Frandsen, Freddy Galvis
Outfielders: Ben Revere, John Mayberry Jr., Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, Laynce Nix
Starting Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan
Relief Pitchers: Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, Jeremy Horst, B.J. Rosenberg
Carlos Ruiz will be back on the 25-man roster after serving his 25-game suspension for violating MLB's substance abuse policy. When Ruiz returns, either Kratz or Quintero is then likely to be shipped out.
Regardless, that leaves but one open spot for a "prospect" to fill.
Given the odd mix of expensive, established veterans (the entire infield, three-fifths of the starting rotation) and inexpensive question marks (Kratz, Ruf, Horst, Galvis) there is just not that much room left for prospects to make the Opening Day roster.
That is in large part because a number of those players, Ruf and Galvis being prime examples, have been rushed to the big leagues ahead of schedule because of injuries or need.
Galvis would not have played in Philadelphia in 2012 but for Utley's inability to start the season.
Ruf is only likely to make the Opening Day roster because the Phillies lack a quality right-handed slugger and they are hoping Ruf can be that player the way a degenerate gambler hopes a scratch-off lottery ticket brings a big win.
Under different circumstances, both Galvis and Ruf would be starting the season in Lehigh Valley.
Beyond them, the Phillies do not have that many major league-ready prospects.
Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle are the two top catching prospects in the Phillies' organization. But the Phillies have apparently decided that both are better off getting regular work in the minor leagues rather than caddying for Erik Kratz for a month.
Jonathan Pettibone split his 2012 time between Reading and Lehigh Valley and pitched quite well, but he is exceptionally unlikely to unseat any of the veterans in time for Opening Day.
There are plenty of mysteries surrounding the 2013 Phillies.
Can Ruf play left field? Can he hit major league pitching regularly?
Can the aging (old, really) infield play 600 games combined?
Does Roy Halladay have anything left?
However, there is not much mystery about prospects making the Opening Day roster for the 2013 Phillies.
They are in "what you see is what you get" mode until further notice.