Philadelphia Phillies: Darin Ruf considering move to Japan


The Philadelphia Phillies have been criticized for improperly developing Darin Ruf. The former prospect might soon trade his major league dream for a professional slot in Japan.

Earlier this decade some baseball observers thought that the Philadelphia Phillies had a potential right-handed bat in Darin Ruf. But, the man dubbed ‘Babe Ruf’ by his Double-A teammates four years ago might be leaving his major league dreams behind this fall. Reports link Ruf to the Japanese Baseball League, with his pending departure likely taking place after this season ends.

Scouting is a subjective art. Statistical metrics don’t define a player’s heart, or humanely project how potential can flow in the future. Baseball has been, is and will remain a guessing game. In Ruf’s case, he doesn’t appear to fit within the Phillies evolving rebuild. So, realism will likely help to convince the 30-year-old to sign whatever contract offer might be extended from the Far East.

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In this instance, East doesn’t refer to the National League East. Instead the fifth-year major leaguer, with approximately three years service time, is likely hoping a Japanese League team makes him an offer. If that proves to be the case, Ruf would put himself in a position to play on a more regular basis. Plus, he would probably earn a better paycheck than could be earned in the United States, or Canada.

Four years ago this first base prospect hit 38 home runs for the Reading Phillies, which broke Ryan Howard‘s Double-A franchise record. Reading Fightin Phils (Philadelphia’s renamed Reading team) outfield prospect Dylan Cozens broke Ruf’s record last weekend.

Cozens lifted the thirty-ninth baseball of his season over the Trenton Yankees’ outfield wall to establish the new mark. Cozens, like Ruf before him, hadn’t demonstrated prolific power until he played half his Double-A games in Reading’s hitter-friendly confines. So, time will tell how this hopeful progresses.

During the past four seasons Howard has blocked Ruf from taking over at first base full-time. The mega-money contract former general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. gave the ‘Big Piece’ played strongly into Ruf’s conversion to left field in late 2012.

If the Phillies had been able to trade Howard at any point through last season Ruf may have become a regular in Philadelphia. But, no takers were willing to bite and Ruf may have had his career development permanently altered. However, no major league teams appeared willing to trade for Ruf, or weren’t able to offer the Phillies fair value in return. So, he languished in the minors and amassed hundreds of at bats in Triple-A since 2013.

Was Ruf ever destined to become a full-time major league first baseman, or designated hitter? That question can’t be answered. But, he’s known as a good infield defender and has hit 32 home runs in 722 major league at bats. So, it’s reasonable to believe that Ruf would have at least been a serviceable platoon player since his historic 2012 minor league season if he’d been given, or earned, extended playing time.

Due to a variety of circumstances, the Phillies did give Ruf a legitimate shot to prove his worth in two of the past four seasons. He appeared in 73 games in 2013, making 293 plate appearances. Ruf appeared in 106 games and made 297 plate appearances in 2015.

The Nebraska native’s ongoing inability to hit right-handed pitching, as evidence by his career major league splits, must be offered to provide a balanced view of his targeted effectiveness. Ruf has hit .204 in 457 at bats against major league right-handers, verses .294 in 265 at bats against left-handers.

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However, he’s equally hit 16 home runs against each type of major league pitcher. So, the Phillies appear to believe that he’s not producing enough overall to warrant a 25-man roster spot. So, Philadelphia may sell his contract to Japan where he’d gain another professional chance.