Phillies' Prospects to Watch in Spring Training as Clearwater Welcomes Club Back

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Phillies' Prospects to Watch in Spring Training as Clearwater Welcomes Club Back
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Phillies fans are hoping Darin Ruf will supply power to a lineup suddenly starved for it.

Because the Phillies strip-mined their minor league system chasing titles from 2009-2011, the "prospect" cupboard is pretty bare.

As explained by ESPN.com's Keith Law in his recent ranking of the Phillies' Top 10 prospects:

"Years of trades, surrendered draft picks and refusal to go give signing bonuses that exceed MLB's recommendations have taken their toll on a system that doesn't look like it'll spit out an average every-day position player until at least 2015...."

Yikes.

So the emphasis needs to turn to young players that Phillies fans have already seen in uniform.

It is hard to think of a more exciting young player on the Phillies roster than Darin Ruf.

Law was, to put it mildly, circumspect about Ruf's ability to produce at the game's highest level. "Darin Ruf could do a little damage as a bench/platoon guy against left-handed bats, although I don't think he's a regular," Law opined.

But the anecdotal evidence has Phillies fans dreaming of a modern-day Greg Luzinski.

Ruf teed off on Eastern League pitching at AA Reading on his way to winning the league's Most Valuable Player award. Ruf then had the proverbial cup of coffee with the big club in September, hitting three home runs in 33 at-bats.

He finished his whirlwind 2012 by tearing up winter ball in Venezuela, per David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Phillies' fans are breathlessly awaiting Ruf's spring training at-bats to see whether he can still drive mistakes.

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.

Hunter Martin/Getty Images
Aumont needs to throw more strikes in 2013.

Aumont made 18 appearances for the Phillies in 2012, even saving two games along the way. His 3.68 earned run average and 1.295 walks and hits per innings pitched were reasonably competent.

But Aumont walked nine batters in his 14.2 innings, muting some of the effect of his 14 strikeouts in that same amount of work.

The Phillies, and particularly Ruben Amaro Jr. (who still hears about the Cliff Lee trade that brought Aumont to Philadelphia), would love to see Aumont blossom into a late-inning force in 2013.

Domonic Brown has been wearing the "prospect" label now for what seems like half a decade. He is 25 years old. He only played 56 games for the Phillies last season. Is he still a "prospect"?

But for Brown's prior status as an up-and-coming player, his .236 lifetime batting average in 147 games would probably have earned his release.

You do not need Keith Law's acumen (significant though it is) to see that this is an aging Phillies team that will rely far more on resurgences from Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay in 2013 than it ever will on seeing breakout years from the likes of Ruf, Aumont and Brown.

But those three players are the "potential" guys in camp from whom the most can be expected, or at least hoped for.

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