In 2013, the Phillies outfield was, at times, a mish-mash of bodies who were often out of place. Whether it was Cesar Hernandez playing center, or Delmon Young playing right, there were plenty of fishes out of water for the Phillies in 2013. Including Darin Ruf, who spent his fair share of time roaming the outfield this season.
Ruf made his debut in 2012, and did so to slight acclaim. In 12 games at the end of the season, Ruf had an OPS of 1.079 and three homers. It wasn't an awful debut by any stretch, and Ruf put on display the one thing that caught everyone's attention in the minor leagues: his power.
Power, perhaps more than any other attribute, is the one thing that every team wants in spades. For better or worse, acquiring home run hitters – even at the cost of batting average – is a risk worth taking for many teams. After all, it's hard to defend against balls that are hit over the fence. If not for that, no one would have thought twice about Darin Ruf, who appeared on everyone's radar following a tremendous 2012 season at AA Reading, where he clubbed 38 homers in 139 games.
That power alone is the reason that Ruf found himself on the roster in 2013. A first baseman by trade, Ruf was moved to the outfield during training in an attempt to find room for him in the lineup. With Ryan Howard cemented at first base, and no DH in the National League, Ruf would have to sink or swim in the outfield.
Surprisingly enough, Ruf equipped himself nicely in his new position. He's not fast, he doesn't have a great arm, and his range is so-so, but he didn't outright embarrass himself out there. For the most part, he did a decent enough job corralling the balls that he was able to get to. While he didn't commit any errors in left or right field, most fielding metrics didn't give him much praise. It's one thing not to commit an error, but quite another to successfully turn most fly balls into outs.
In short, Darin Ruf is not an outfielder, and he likely will never be. However, that doesn't mean he wasn't useful to the Phillies in some capacity this season. In 73 games, he had 11 doubles, 14 homers, a .348 OBP and an .806 OPS. He wasn't Miguel Cabrera, but there is some utility there on offense. While he mashed against left-handed pitchers in his rookie season, he wasn't quite so lucky in 2013. In 69 at bats, he had a .656 OPS, with only three homers.
Although Ruf will only be 27 next season, his fate is still probably that of a bench or platoon player. He has enough power to make himself useful, but there is very little chance he will be a starter unless the Phillies are able to move Ryan Howard. But that's not a bad thing, because having someone like Ruf on the bench is certainly an advantage over the course of a season.