Strong Eastern League MVP candidate
Having seen Ruf perform a number of times this season, I can clearly say that he appears to be carrying a potential major bat in his hands when he's stepped to the plate in Double-A. Anyone who has observed this Eastern League standout would surely agree.
Last night, while playing in left field, Ruf retrieved a ball from the base of the power alley fence and threw out a Trenton Thunder (New York Yankees affiliate) player at second base. Good outfielders are known to do that. But, Ruf has played the majority of his minor league career at first base, including 100 games at that position this season.
The right-handed slugger also hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning in yesterday's game. That blast extended his round-tripper streak to five games.
The term 'slugger' hadn't been assigned to this 2009 twentieth round draft pick before last season, because he had only hit 12 combined home runs through the end of the 2010 season. After arriving in Clearwater partway through that year, he went on to continue his development at that Single-A location in 2011.
Ruf's power-production last year eclipsed that of his first two professional years combined, as he hit 17 home runs. Through last night's game, he has hit 29 home runs for Reading. Spending this entire season in Double-A obviously supports the idea of steady development.
Only three Reading Phillies have ever hit more home runs in one season than Ruf: Willie Darkis (31 in 1983), Greg Luzinski (33 in 1970), and Ryan Howard (37 in 2004).
Future Phillie, or trade bait?
The recent trade of Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants netted three players in return, one of whom was Tommy Joseph. Primarily a catcher, Joseph has also played first base on occasion during his three-year minor league career. Ruf's left field assignment last night resulted because Joseph was asked to wear his first baseman's mitt once more.
With sentiment growing that Ruf's breakout season will lead to Eastern League Most Valuable Player Award honors, it's appropriate to consider whether the parent club believes that he could be part of their future outfield plans.
Including this season, Ruf has only played a total of 26 games in left field during his four-year career. So, he seems unlikely to become the 'Big Phillies' primary left fielder by next spring.
It's possible that he could be retained as a future insurance policy at first base for Howard, or be converted into a full-time outfielder next season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Using his gaudy statistics to lure a potential offseason trade partner's interest also stands as a potential alternative option.
Domonic Brown's corner
The recently revived prospects of outfielder Domonic Brown were aided by the overall performance that he gave earlier this season with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. In addition to improving his plate approach, he seems to have benefited from splitting time between all three outfield positions. Since his recall to the big club, Brown has played nine games in left field and six games in right field.
Brown, who has primarily served as a right fielder in his seven-year professional career, is likely to remain in the Phillies' outfield next season.
Another promising player, Reading third baseman Cody Asche, extended his hitting streak to eleven games last night.
Hardcore fans know that a majority of minor leaguers never make it to the major leagues. There's no way to know whether Asche, or Ruf, will ever be seen at Citizens Bank Park in a Phillies' uniform. Currently neither player's name appears on the team's 40-man roster.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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