In his end-of-the-season talk with reporters on Monday, GM Ruben Amaro minced no words about his belief that Darin Ruf is not the Phillies' answer in right field.
But he didn't convince Amaro.
“In right field, we don’t know what we’ve got,” Amaro said, per Jim Salisbury at CSNPhilly.com. “That’s a hole for us. Ruf is not a rightfielder.
“I think he can fill in for us. I think he can fill in in certain areas, but I can’t sit here and tell you that he’s an everyday player for us."
Granted, Ruf doesn't belong in right field. Dom Brown does. The process of that switch probably should've started when Brown returned late in the season. But either way, with Brown in right next year, Ruf becomes much more welcoming defensively as a leftfielder.
Yet, Amaro doesn't even view Ruf as an everyday player for the Phillies.
“He’s going to have to fight for a job in some way, shape or form," Amaro said. "Can he add some depth to our bench, to our club overall? Can he play a little left, can he play a little right, can he play a little first and give [Ryan] Howard a blow? He can become valuable in that regard. But I don’t know he’s an everyday player yet.
“It’s hard to say that he’s an everyday player in the outfield. I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice, because we just need to be better in the outfield defensively.”
Yes, the defense needs to be better, but so too does the offense that finished 13th in the league in runs per game. Amaro wants a Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino, who will hit and give you superb defensive play. Those guys come at a high price, and there aren't any available this winter in free agency even if the Phillies wanted to foot the huge bill.
Ruf isn't the fastest guy in the outfield. What he can get to, he'll catch. His arm isn't bad. His bat — over half a season — was pretty good. And he doesn't cost anything.
Ruf's a guy who will take pitches. He finds his way on base, and he does it in bunches. His .247 average wasn't pretty, but his .348 OBP over 100 points higher was. So was his 33-game on-base streak. He saw 4.17 pitches per plate appearance, hovering in a range with guys like Joe Mauer (4.25), Mike Trout (4.21) and Dustin Pedroia (4.05).
He strikes out too much. In 251 at-bats, 91 whiffs is way too many. Over a full season, that translates to about 200 K's. It's not atypical for a power hitter though, and his 14 homers translates to 30+ bombs.
What's really a shame is that Ruf will probably give you as much production at less than a million dollars as Ryan Howard will at $25 million. Ruf's 2013 numbers are basically identical to Howard's slash line over the past three years of .248/.327/.467.
No, Ruf shouldn't be handed a starting job if there are far better options. But betting that there won't be, he deserves a shot at one.