Photo courtesy of Penn Shelly.
He did it again. Last night Phillies (prospect?) Darin Ruf hit his 36th home run of the season for AA Reading. The Reading Phillies record of 37 is held by Ryan Howard.
Earlier I wrote about the skepticism. Is Ruf the next Ryan Howard? Or is he the next Matt Rizzotti? As time has gone on, people (including myself) are getting less skeptical and more intrigued at what Ruf could do for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Let's face it: the Phillies need a right-handed power bat, and they are unsure where to get it. Ruf, a first baseman by trade, has been playing left field for the Reading Phillies. They have lefty bats in Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Domonic Brown. Reserve outfielders Laynce Nix and Nate Schierholtz are also left-handed. So if Ruf is the real deal, he would be exactly what they need with a hole in left field and desperate need for a right-handed bat. But, there are a couple concerns: defense and Ruf's age.
Ruf is probably the type of fielder who should be at first base. But, the Phillies have Ryan Howard there, and he does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon (though I wouldn't rule it out completely - a discussion for another day). But the Phillies have gotten by with Greg Luzinski, Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez on teams that made it to the World Series. Typically the least adept fielder plays left field. I am not worried that Ruf could not at least play a Ibanez-esque left field.
Ruf's age is also of concern to someone. There are players drafted out of high school, and players drafted after some college our a full four-year college career. Ruf stayed in college through his Senior year in 2009. Ruf turned 26 the end of last month, which indeed is behind Ryan Howard's pace. Howard was 24 when he hit 37 home runs for Reading in 2004. This is just Ruf's third full season since being drafted and he has progressed regularly.
Ryan Howard was sent to AAA before getting a full season to hit more home runs. Howard was moved up on July 31 after 102 games. Ruf has played 132, so it is not to the magnitude of Howard's pace. But, it sounds like it has been enough to get the attention of the big club's manager. Ryan Lawrence reports that it sounds like Charlie Manuel wants Ruf up with the Phillies this September. I think Charlie will get what he wants.
And while in the past I reminisced about the likes of Tagg Bozied, Matt Rizzotti, and Randy Ruiz having success at Reading, Ruf has continued to produce. Let Ruf tie Howard's record and bring him on up.