Philadelphia Phillies' converted left fielder Darin Ruf is currently playing in the Venezuelan fall league. If he performs adequately and impresses enough people next spring, it's possible that he could be seen in Philadelphia's outfield in 2013.
All fans know that it's a long time until spring training arrives and that there are plenty of offseason intangibles to be factored into the equation along the way. Beyond fall ball, any questions about Ruf can begin by asking if he will be used as bait in an offseason trade?
I was fortunate to be around many fine baseball people when I worked in the front office for the Phillies' Triple-A team that formerly was located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Listening to the wisdom of great people like manager Bill Dancy taught me how subjective talent evaluation really was.
Dancy's methods always put his players in positions where they could succeed. He also never assumed that anyone couldn't realize their potential.
While every minor league team is filled with players of varying talent levels, ongoing speculation about how any of them will progress is always difficult to determine. When it comes to Ruf, I'm patiently waiting to see how far he might be able to go.
Like any long-time fan, I'm aware of those personality types who seemingly root for others to fail. A detractor's opinion often reveals the inner angst of the purposeful pessimist, as opposed to the expression of real knowledge.
Watching Ruf play first base and left field in Double-A Reading (as well as a bit of both positions in Philadelphia) showed me that he has the heart to successfully complete a position switch. While he isn't the fastest man on the planet, he has good game instincts and understands positioning.
It's fair to wonder if the native Nebraskan will be able to make the offensive adjustments that are necessary to consistently hit major league, or potentially Triple-A, pitching next season. I believe that his quick hands and smart plate approach should allow him to develop offensively, but I'm not sure at what pace that will happen.
Beyond all of the above, this young man (yes, 26 is still young) always has a smile on his face when he's around the game. This was true early in the 2012 season, before his "Babe Ruf" fame grew. That point adds to a promising diamond resume that hopefully has convinced the Phillies to keep him in the fold.
Ruf hit 17 home runs in Single-A in 2011. It's likely that he still would've moved onto the Phillies' red radar screen if he had only hit approximately 25 bombs this year. But, the man sent a combined 41 regular season home runs (38 for the Reading Phillies and three for the parent club) over the fences in 2012. That organizationally historic power surge deserves to be met with a protected response.
I wouldn't trade Ruf under any circumstances and I'm fully aware that any type of major league career is far from certain. I also know that by retaining his services the Phillies could squander a potential one-time opportunity to obtain something of value for him. So be it.
I think that there's no decision to be made about Ruf. He's a Phillie, case closed.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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