When you speak about Phillies hitting prospects that didn’t pan out over the years, one name that almost definitely comes up in conversation is Darin Ruf. Ruf was highly touted for his slugging, as he progressed through the Phillies minor league system due to his power alone. Unfortunately, Ruf couldn’t translate his minor league success to the majors. Aside from hitting 14 home runs in 73 games for the Phillies in 2013, he struggled to adjust at the big league level, and was ultimately traded after the 2016 season.
Things look to have turned a corner for Ruf, however.
Following a successful three-year stint with the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization, he has found his way back onto a big league roster. The San Francisco Giants, managed by former Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler, announced their Opening Day roster and Ruf is listed as an infielder:
“He continues to find the barrel,” manager Gabe Kapler told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He continues to drive the baseball, he continues to have professional at-bats and use the entire field. I’m really excited about the progress that Darin is making.”
In 16 spring/summer training games, Ruf slashed .364/.405/.848 with three homers and nine RBIs.
“I know the division, I know there’s a lot of lefties,” Ruf added. “I knew I could possibly carve out a role on this team and I was really excited for that.”
In 318 plate appearances for the Phillies, Ruf slashed .299/.379/.542 against lefties.
Meanwhile, Brandon Belt, the Giants starting first baseman, is still nursing a heel injury. If Belt is unable to go, Ruf could find himself starting at first base on Opening Night for the Giants. Kapler hopes Ruf will become a candidate to be the team’s designated hitter, first baseman or corner outfielder, as the Giants plan to be a platoon-heavy team. San Francisco’s first three games will be against three left-handed starting pitchers as well, which should help Ruf get started.
Ruf entered the Phillies system in 2009, went on to his nine homers in 2010, 17 in 2011 and 38 in 2012, which was a franchise record for Double-A Reading until Dylan Cozens hit 40 in 2016.
Ruf made his name in the system with home runs, but was just an all-around solid hitter in the minor leagues with the Phils. Throughout 675 minor league games, the now 33-year-old slashed .295/.372/.476 with 95 homers and 424 RBIs. After debuting for the Phillies in 2012, Ruf went on to have his best season in red pinstripes, spending time as a starter at first base and the outfield.
Following the 2013 season, Ruf’s flaws began to get magnified. Ryan Howard was still on the team, so Ruf spend time in between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley, trying to hone his skills in the outfield. Right-handed pitching proved to be Ruf’s achilles heel. Through his 286 games with the Phils, Ruf slashed .206/.274/.369 against righties. In November 2016, the Phillies dealt Ruf to the Dodgers, along with Darnell Sweeney, for Howie Kendrick. Ruf never played for the Dodgers, instead opting to pursue the aforementioned opportunity in the KBO.
In three seasons with the Samsung Lions, Ruf combined to hit .313 with 86 home runs and 350 RBIs. He struck out 301 times compared to 205 walks, so it will be interesting to see if he’s able to maintain good plate discipline back in Major League Baseball.
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