Ruf at Double A Reading in 2012
As we have now learned, Ryan Howard has a meniscus tear in his left knee, causing him to miss six to eight weeks. This gives Darin Ruf, who has spent the entire season at Triple A Lehigh Valley, a chance to start in his true position, first base. Ruf began to turn heads last year, when he hit 38 homers at Double A, breaking the team record set by Ryan Howard. He received a September call up, where Ruf hit .333 (11-for-33) with 3 HR and 10 RBI, in just 12 games. Ruf then went into Spring Training with a chance to battle with Domonic Brown, for the team's final outfield spot.
This year, at Lehigh Valley, Ruf hit .266 with 7 HR and 42 RBI in 82 games. He played 19 games at first base this season. Ruf has 74 minor league homers, in 540 career minors games. But, he has 158 doubles career in the minors, showing that Ruf also has gaps power, as he showed yesterday as well against the Braves (1-for-2, 2B, 2 R). Ruf also has a career .380 (!) OBP and .503 SLG. If Ruf was a qualifier, and had the .380 OBP, he would rank just outside the top 10 in OBP (10th -- Joe Mauer .390). Compare this to Ryan Howard's OBP, which is just .361.
So, do I think Ruf can get the job done? Honestly, I think a healthy Darin Ruf is better than an ailing Ryan Howard. Would you rather have a guy who has a tear in his knees, where you get all your power, or have a very healthy, younger, power hitter? I would choose the ladder. Remember how Ryan Howard took the starting first baseman's job? Due to a Jim Thome injury, that kept him sidelined for a while. Due to the extent of Howard's contract, Ruf may not be able to take over the job for a long time. But, he could be auditioning for an outfield spot, as Delmon Young is only under contract for the 2013 campaign. Ruf can't play right field, but he can play left, as Domonic Brown could move back to his true position, right field. I believe that Darin Ruf could play better than Ryan Howard while he's gone.
So, does the Ryan Howard injury put the Phillies in complete sell mode? I doubt it. I think Ruf can be an "added bonus" to the Phillies lineup, even though his OPS is lower (.902 to .882). I think Phillies fans should be glad that Howard is hurt, and Ruf is in. Playing on a torn knee isn't helpful, as you only have 27 outs to use, so you need the best lineup you can have. But, if Howard can return to who he used to be before the injury, obviously he's the best option in the lineup, but for now, Ruf is the man.