No one in baseball is more surprised to see Darin Ruf in the big leagues than Darin Ruf himself, says Reading Eagle beat writer Mike Drago, who offers his exclusive take on the EL MVP and newest Phillie for Beerleaguer.
He didn't have a great year; he had a season beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
He homered more times in August than he did all of last season at Clearwater; hit more homers this season than he did in his first three in the Phillies system, combined.
Only Josh Hamilton has more homers right now than Ruf, who finished his historic season hitting .317/.408/.620 with 38 home runs.
So, what is Charlie Manuel getting today? It's hard to say; even the Phillies aren't sure themselves.
Ruf played at Double-A at an advanced age (26) and has never played an inning at Triple-A. He didn't start hitting home runs consistently until the second half of last season at Clearwater. He's more than a home run hitter, as his numbers indicate. He was three singles short of an Eastern League Triple Crown. He has gained plate discipline and impressed scouts with the consistent contact he makes.
He's not overly athletic and doesn't run well, and he's just learning to play left field. He didn't get serious time there until late July. He can handle himself at first base, but he'll need a full offseason and spring training to refine his work as an outfielder. Hopefully he's not exposed to that position in the major leagues, at least not right away.
A word of caution to any Phillies fans thinking they're about to see the next Jim Thome: They need to rachet down their expectations. Ruf was a 20th-round draft pick for a reason. Some guys develop later, and Ruf is one of those. With a cup of coffee in September, and then an ample numbert of Triple-A at-bats, the Phillies might have, in time, a guy who can hit some home runs off the bench, play a little left field and spell Ryan Howard against tough lefties.
Then again, who knows? Darin Ruf might surprise himself again.
- Mike Drago (Follow on Twitter)