I have a soft spot in my heart (and my head) for guys who put up really solid offensive numbers in AA. Travis Chapman, Eric Valent, Jeff Stone, Matt Rizzotti, Steve Susdorf, and, this year, at least so far …. Darin Ruf.
Ruf was a 2009 draftee after his senior year at Creighton. He was drafted in the 20th round, 617th overall. Not exactly a guy who’ll get handed a position. The Phils showed what they thought of him by sending him to GCL (unusual for a college guy) while Stephen Batts was given first shot at Williamsport at-bats. Ruf was OK at GCL, and Batts struggled in North-Central PA. Ruf and his .326 BA (with little power) packed up and moved to Williamsport. He led the team in OPS ahead of Valle, Castro, James, and (needless to say) Hewitt. He was 22.
At 23 he played the first month in Lakewood, where he tore the cover off the ball with an OPS of .991, then was promoted to the FSL, where he struggled through the scorching summer at Clearwater. This was his first real struggle in pro ball, but even given it was a struggle, he hit almost .280 with a .756 OPS. His secondary stats were bad, though, as his K-rate went way up and his BB rate went down. Well, it looked like he might have hit his ceiling–another year or two, and he’d be flipping burgers.
Phils had him repeat Clearwater for a full year in 2010 at 24, and, surprise, he turned it back on. He led the league in BA at .308 and OPSed .894, mashing 43 doubles and 17 HRs. The most impressive thing was his walk rate more than doubling.
So his .387 BA and 1.046 OPS didn’t come out of nowhere, as some folks seem to think. As a 25-year-old in AA he has to move fast, but he could be a major league starter if he gets the right chance and a team sticks with him. His glove is pretty solid, and given that Overbeck can play 3B he could move to AAA before the end of the year. His walk rate is a bit low this year, and his BABIP will likely regress. But the guy can probably hit in the big leagues. If they leave him in Reading, he might win an MVP. Worth the trip to Baseballtown to watch him.