Darin Ruf was the Phillies first baseman of the future.
The former Eastern League MVP smashed 38 home runs in 2012, breaking Ryan Howard’s Reading home run record (37). Ruf posted a 1.079 OPS in limited MLB action that year, but the table was set for a starting battle between Howard and the rookie Ruf in 2013.
By 2017 both had played their last game in red pinstripes. Howard retired a Phillies hero, Ruf a flameout, unable to live up to his potential. He slashed just .240/.314/.433 over five seasons. Ruf, now 30, continued his career in Korea with the Samsung Lions.
Ruf had only shown glimmers of talent in Philadelphia. For the Lions, he was a diamond in the rough. In his first season in Korea, Ruf walloped 31 home runs in 134 games. He continued his torrid pace for two more seasons, averaging nearly 29 home runs and slashing .313/.404/.564.
In January of 2020, Ruf joined fellow Philadelphia castoff Gabe Kapler in San Francisco.
2020 saw Ruf continue his KBO form, slashing .276/.370/.517 in 100 plate appearances from a bench role. After proving himself in 2020, Ruf returned to the Giants for 2021. Thus far, the former 20th round pick has slashed .278/.398/.576, but Ruf has only improved as the season has gone on. Since July 1, he’s knocked six home runs and posted a .328/.438/.721 slash line.
Last weekend, Ruf mashed two more home runs against the powerhouse Houston Astros. His go-ahead two-run blast propelled the NL West leading Giants to a 5-3 victory on Aug. 1
“Maybe [I’m] just a little bit more aggressive, Ruf told the San Francisco media about his approach. “Obviously, you’ve got to find some holes out there and get lucky sometimes, but I just fell into a good rhythm.”
Going forward, Ruf will undoubtedly see more time starting at first base for the injured Brandon Belt, whose knee will likely require a rehab stint. As the NL West pennant race heats up, the former Phillie will need to be a key contributor for Giants as they battle the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres for the division crown.
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