clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Darin Ruf and the End of Ryan Howard

The Phillies appear to be done with their too-expensive first baseman, and that means Ruf is due for a big increase in playing time and fantasy relevance.


Okay, look, it's been en vogue on Twitter the last day or so for writers to go back and link to their at-the-time reactions to Ryan Howard's contract extension. Just about everyone objective and smart agreed it was an abomination of an extension, and said so in 2010.

Though I wasn't writing about baseball anywhere but in my Facebook statuses at the time, I agreed that it didn't make sense. It was clear then, and it's clearer now.

We all get lots of things wrong. As Joe Sheehan noted yesterday in a pair of tweets, he was dead-on about Howard, and dead-wrong about any number of other things. So all of us saying "See, we told you so," about Howard aren't doing so to point out how much smarter we are in general. It's just about how obviously wrong the Howard extension was, and how vitriolic the blowback was when that was pointed out.

Still, though, it's clear at this point that, one way or another, Howard's tenure in Philadelphia is at or nearing its end. He's already been relegated to a quasi-platoon, there is all sorts of talk they'll trade him at a huge financial loss, and heck, people are saying they might just release him to accept the sunk cost.

My advice in this space is for deeper leagues. And that can be a really variable classification. When I advocated a Derek Norris/John Jaso fantasy platoon a few weeks ago, that was for something like 14-team leagues. Not super-shallow, okay, but definitely not 20-teamers or deep AL-Only leagues or whatever.

But sometimes, I'm talking about the deepest of leagues. I've said it lots of times, but when you get into the 20-team leagues, the 12-team NL-Only leagues, you're looking for playing time. None of your team stats will look that special in the aggregate, because you're combining the stats of, say, Buster Posey at catcher with those of someone like Reed Johnson in the outfield. You just can't have studs at every position, and since you'll have Just-A-Guys at some slots, you want your Just-A-Guys to play as much as possible, just to have as many chances as they can to get some sort of numbers.

I've gone off on two tangents so far without getting to my point. So, here, point time: One way or another, Darin Ruf is going to get a lot of playing time the rest of the way.

Ruf, who turns 28 on Monday, put up a .257/.348/.489 line in 2012 and 2013, with 17 homers in 330 plate appearances. He's an awful fielder, and has spent the majority of his time in the outfield because, you know, Ryan Howard was at first. But now, as I noted above, Howard is going and/or gone. Ruf is at the bare minimum going to be the Phillies' righty-hitting half of a platoon, and there's a better-than-decent chance he's going to be the full-time first baseman.

He's struggled mightily this year. He's hitting .118/.167/.294. Of course, that's 19 plate appearances, as Ruf missed the first chunk of the season with an oblique injury, spent time in the minors with a broken wrist. He just returned to the team Tuesday, but started at first base both Wednesday and Thursday.

In regular-sized leagues, Darin Ruf isn't really relevant, even if Ryan Howard leaves. He put up a 129 OPS+ in his first two seasons, but didn't profile as that sort of hitter prior to that. In full-time play, though, he'll get plenty of plate appearances. That will inevitably lead to run and RBI opportunities, just by virtue of quantity, if not quality. He does have some power, and will help in home runs.

It's not often you can find a guy with full-time playing time, or a likely chance thereof, who has only a 1 percent ownership in Yahoo! fantasy leagues, as Ruf does. In the deepest leagues, that's a guy whose add time is now.

(This is written only in part because I own Ruf in a 12-team NL-Only in which my pitching is great and my offense is awful, and I'm hopeful. Yep, only in part.)