Entering the 2014 season, Philadelphia Phillies‘ Darin Ruf appears to be the odd man out. Because of injuries and lack of depth in the outfield, Ruf became an everyday player for the Phillies last season. When Ryan Howard returned from injury, Ruf continued his transition from first base to the outfield. Although Ruf had his struggles, it allowed him to consistently play in the league and mature as a player.
Last season Ruf played in 73 games while hitting .247 with 14 home runs, 30 RBI and .348 OBP. Not spectacular but efficient for a player on a team with subpar offensive numbers. After the All-Star break, Ruf led the team among regular starters in home runs (12) and walks (28); he was second in runs scored (30), on base percentage (.336), slugging percentage (.435) and on-base percentage + slugging percentage (.758); he was third in hits (53) and RBI (27).
The past several seasons the Phillies have platooned players in the outfield, shuffling left-handed and right-handed batters for the best matchup against opposing pitchers. Domonic Brown broke out last year, playing more like the highly anticipated player he is expected to become. His electric first half earned him a spot on the National League All-Star team, and he became an everyday player regardless of who pitched for the opposing team. Unless Brown regresses, left field should be his on a consistent basis with no platoon necessary.
After a slow start, Ben Revere came charging back in his first season with the Phillies. Revere went on to hit over .300 but broke his foot in mid-July and missed the rest of the season. Revere will be the daily center fielder, hit out of the leadoff spot and unless he gets off to a slow start he won’t be sharing time.
Then there is right field. Considering Ruben Amaro Jr. went out and signed 36-year-old Marlon Byrd to a steep two-year, $16 million contract, it is believed the job will be his to lose. Since Byrd and Ruf are both right-handed hitters, it’s hard to believe they would platoon against left-handed and right-handed pitchers.
Howard will take on the daily duties at first base but will certainly have his fair share of maintenance days. Ruf should be the first replacement, but he will be competing with John Mayberry Jr. who will also have a difficult time finding a place to play. Since Amaro gave Howard a huge contract, it is likely he will continue to play even if he struggles to perform at a high level.
Ruf is 27-years-old and is a player who could help the Phillies this year as well as in years to come. He is a player who should be in the lineup on a consistent basis and needs to see live pitching every day. Ruf won’t lead the team in average and won’t win a gold glove, but he could supply some power from the right side of the plate and produce more runs for a team that has been offensively deficient over the last four years. Will there be a place for him to play on the Phillies this season?