Tag Archives: Darin Ruf

Future murky for Aaron Altherr entering the 2019 season

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Aaron Altherr’s future role with Phillies is up-in-the-air entering 2019

Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have been focused on potential changes to the starting lineup for the 2019 season for obvious reasons. A team that hopes to become a contender had problems both producing runs and playing defense a year ago, yet battled for the division lead into September.

The club began to make improvents in the outfield with the December free agent signing of veteran Andrew McCutchen. Slotting the 32-year-old former National League Most Valuable Player into left field allowed the Phillies to switch Rhys Hoskins back to his more comfortable position at first base.
The specter of Bryce Harper also continues to hang over the incumbent outfielder mix. If the Phillies are successful in their pursuit of the free agent superstar, he and ‘Cutch’ would be everyday starters on the outfield corners for the Phillies for the next three years, the length of McCutchen’s contract.
Whether the team actually lands Harper or not, this is going to be a pivotal season at the start of a defining period in the career of one of those outfielders, Aaron Altherr.
Signed for the upcoming 2019 campaign at $1.35 million, Altherr cannot become a free agent until after the 2021 season. Unless he is traded or released, he is going to be with the Phillies for the next three years. Having turned 28-years-old last month, Altherr is due to be with the Phillies through what will be the prime years of his career.

Though he only actually lived there for the first six months of his life, Altherr is one of the few European-born players in Major League Baseball. He was born in Landstuhl, Germany to a mother serving in the U.S. Air Force and a father who was a professional soccer player.
The Phillies selected Altherr as an 18-year-old in the ninth round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft out of an Arizona high school. Following the 2010 season he was ranked among the Phillies top ten prospects by Baseball America.
Altherr spent the next three years rising incrementally through the Phillies farm system, spending the entire 2012 season with Low-A Lakewood and the entirety of 2013 with High-A Clearwater.
By the time he arrived at Double-A Reading for the 2014 season the big-league Phillies were still trying to transition from the popular, successful core group of players who had been consistent winners in the previous decade.
Altherr didn’t have a great year at Reading, slashing just .236/.287/.399 over 120 games. But his 14 homers, 43 extra-base hits, 12 stolen bases and solid play in center field demonstrated athleticism that the team’s decision-makers at the time saw as potentially valuable.
That summer, Altherr received his first looks at life in the Majors when he appeared in two games. On June 16 in Atlanta he was called on to pinch-hit for reliever Mario Hollands in the top of the 12th inning of a 1-1 tie with the host Braves. His first big-league plate appearance saw Altherr face right-hander Anthony Valvaro and resulted in his making the final out of the inning by flying out to center field.
On July 3 in Miami, Altherr got his first start. He played the entire game that evening and took an 0-4 collar. It would be his last taste of life in ‘The Show ‘for more than a year. Playing well over the first four-and-a-half months of 2015 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he earned another shot in mid-August back in Philly.
It was on August 19, 2015 against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park that Altherr finally recorded his first big-league hit. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Altherr drilled a double to left field off veteran southpaw Mark Buehrle to score Darin Ruf. For the rest of that season, Altherr would be the Phillies starting left fielder.
Over the next couple of seasons, Altherr struggled to become a reliable, everyday starting outfielder for a Phillies team that had gone into full rebuild mode and had dropped to the bottom of the National League. He missed the first half of the 2016 season due to surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist and struggled on his return.
The 2017 campaign seemed to be a possible breakout one. He missed a month with a hamstring injury in late-summer, but still finished with solid numbers. That year he slashed .272/.340/.516 and produced 19 homers, 65 RBI, and 48 extra-base hits over 412 plate appearances.
In December 2017 the Phillies made one of the most perplexing free agent signings in their history when they inked veteran Carlos Santana to play first base. That signing would have ripple effects on Altherr. With Hoskins moved out left field, it left Altherr as part of a right field platoon with Nick Williams.
Altherr struggled with the new role and was even sent back to Lehigh Valley for the entire month of August. He would slash just .181/.295/.333 with eight homers and 20 extra-base hits over 285 plate appearances scattered across 105 games with the Phillies last season.
It would appear that if Altherr stays with the Phillies for the 2019 season, the best he can hope for is to again platoon with Williams in right field. It’s a tough spot to be in for a player who just two seasons ago looked like he might be breaking through as a legitimate starting outfielder.

The puzzling acquisition of Santana to play first base sent Altherr into a 2018 platoon. (Ian D’Andrea/Flickr)
Now imagine that Harper actually signs with the Phillies. What then for Altherr – or the talented 25-year-old Williams for that matter? Odubel Herrera is signed for the long-term in center field and Roman Quinn, who turns just 26-years-old in May, is as talented as any of the holdovers.
Altherr will play this entire season at age 28 in what should be the prime of his career. If healthy, and if he can accept the role, he could prove an extremely valuable bench player. Still athletic, he could serve as a backup at all three outfield positions. He would also provide some potential pop and speed off the bench as both a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.
When he was demoted last summer following his lengthy funk, Altherr was quoted by Tom Housenick at The Morning Call on the difficulty that he was having transitioning from having been an everyday player in 2017 to a platoon-bench role in 2018:
In my heart, I wanted to be down here to get at-bats. It’s tough to get up there and pinch hit. It’s not something I’m not used to, for sure. Once I’ve got my confidence, I can do that.
If Altherr still harbors any dreams of becoming a regular starting player in Major League Baseball, short of catastrophic injuries to the rest of the Phillies outfield mix, a trade would appear to be his best personal option. If Harper signs, someone from among the Altherr, Williams and Quinn group would almost assuredly become trade bait during spring training.
One thing that is certain is that with free agency still three years away, where he plays is largely out of Altherr’s control. What he does control is his own physical and mental preparation. Be ready in both regards for the possibility of being a bench player or platoon outfielder in Philly, or even a starter should injuries or a trade come to pass.

His ability to prepare well and produce in the opportunities that he is given this coming season could define the rest of his career, whether that continues with the Phillies or winds up in another organization.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Aaron Altherr enters a defining period for his career

Phillies, Dodgers Swap Ruf, Kendrick

The Philadelphia Phillies today have traded away longtime disappointing 1B/LF Darin Ruf to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for one-time AL All-Star Howie Kendrick.
In addition, the Phils will be shipping Darnell Sweeney back to Los Angeles. He was obtained in August of 2015 along with prospect pitcher John Richy in the deal that sent second baseman Chase Utley out west.

RUF HAS BEEN A PHILLIES DISAPPOINTMENT

Ruf has been a major disappointment with the Phillies. He has never been able to produce enough against right-handing pitching or perform adequately enough on defense to earn a regular role. The now 30-year-old Nebraska native was selected by the Phils with their 20th round choice in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft.
Ruf burst onto the prospect scene in 2011 by banging 43 doubles and 17 home runs with a strong .308/.388/.506 slash line with the High A Clearwater Threshers.
The power took another step forward at always hitter-friendly AA Reading the following season. In that 2012 campaign, Ruf bashed 38 homers to go along with 32 doubles, 104 RBI, and a .317/.408/620 slash.
With the big league club struggling to the end of their first non-postseason finish in six years, Ruf received his first promotion in September of 2012.

Homering in his fourth big league game, Ruf hit for a .333/.351/.727 slash line. He produced three home runs and 10 RBI over 37 plate appearances in a dozen September games.

But it was all downhill from there. At this point in his career, Ruf has a .245/.323/.445 slash with 32 homers and 87 RBI over 744 career plate appearances.
Some among the Phillies fan base still to this day claim that he was never given a fair, full opportunity. The fact is, he never earned it.
The righty-swinging Ruf’s career split against right-handed pitching reveals a horrendous .206/.274/.369 slash line. He has banged 18 homers in 515 plate appearances over which he has struck out 152 times.

SWEENEY A NON-FACTOR

Sweeney hit just .176/.286/.353 with three homers and 11 RBI in 98 big league plate appearances during the 2015 season following the trade.
He was never able to crack the big league roster this season. Sweeney hit just .233/.299/.345 with six homers and a dozen steals in 447 plate appearances at AAA Lehigh Valley.

WHO IS KENDRICK?

Kendrick had by far his best years in L.A., but with the Angels rather than the Dodgers. In his 2011 All-Star campaign, Kendrick hit .285 with 18 homers, 63 RBI, 86 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.
In 2014, Kendrick received AL MVP votes during his final season with the Halos. That year he hit .293 with 75 RBI, 85 runs scored, 33 doubles, and 14 steals.
Kendrick signed a $29.5 million, three-year contract with the Dodgers as a free agent following that 2014 campaign, but has largely been a disappointment.
After spending the vast majority of his career as a second baseman, the Dodgers converted him to mostly left field this year. He appeared in 94 games in LF, 32 at second base, 17 at third base, and 11 at first base in addition to serving once as a DH.
In 2016, Kendrick hit for just a .255/.326/.366 slash. He produced eight homers, 40 RBI, 65 runs scored, and 10 steals in 487 at-bats over 146 games.

SO WHY MAKE THE DEAL?

There is no way that the now 33-year-old Kendrick (he’ll turn 34 in the middle of the 2017 season) can be considered a part of the rebuilding Phillies’ future plans.
What the club sees in this deal beyond a one-year change of scenery move is questionable. However, the real key may be that it clears one spot off the 40-man roster. The team will have to protect a number of top prospects this off-season.
“There may not be a more professional hitter than Howie Kendrick,” GM Matt Klentak said per Ryan Lawrence at The Philly Voice. “He’s the definition of a professional hitter. He’s been steady his entire career…one of the hardest working guys in the league and he can hit anywhere in the lineup and be productive. … I think Howie is going to have a legitimate impact on our young group.”
That young group of outfielders includes incumbent starters in center fielder Odubel Herrera and right fielder Aaron Altherr.
The Phillies also have young Roman Quinn, who broke into the big leagues in September, and outfield prospect Nick Williams. The former has a good shot to open the season with the Phils, while the latter is likely ticketed for some finishing work at the AAA level.

Kendrick may indeed be a “professional hitter”, but the “productive” part, well, I simply do not see. This seems for all the world to me like a move that will turn out to be a big nothing in the end for either ball club.

Philadelphia Phillies 2016 Grades: Infielders

When the 2016 season opened there were many question marks across the infield, with 3rd baseman Maikel Franco the only player who seemed a reliable source of production.
But as the season unfolded, the infielders mostly answered those questions in a positive fashion. 
In fact, Franco may have been the most disappointing player among the regular performers.
Back in spring training there was hope that a platoon of veteran Ryan Howard and perennially underachieving Darin Ruf would provide combined solid production.
In the middle infield, no one knew what to expect out of 2nd baseman Cesar Hernandez besides perhaps a 20+ stolen base year, and Freddy Galvis was just keeping shortstop warm until the arrival of top prospect J.P. Crawford.
In the middle, both Hernandez and Galvis upped their offensive games, though Hernandez often was as maddening on base paths as he was dangerous to the opposition.As it turned out, there was a very productive 1st base platoon. 
But it was the pleasant surprise of Tommy Joseph, called up in May after a hot start with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who produced from the right side of that platoon with Howard.
Those five players received the overwhelming majority of the playing time in the infield. Only one backup player, Andres Blanco, received enough time to warrant a final grade here.
So let’s take a look at the 2016 grades for Howard, Joseph, Hernandez, Galvis, Franco, and Blanco.
I am guessing that it will be the last Phillies grade that I ever bestow on “The Big Piece”, who is going to be leaving as a free agent. Because of his place in club history, I will grade him last.
READ ORIGINAL article at That Ball’s Outta Here for full grading.

Philadelphia Phillies 2016 Grades: Outfielders

There is probably a wide swath of the larger Philadelphia sports fan base who were not paying much attention to the Phillies during the month of September.

Unless you are, like myself, one of the hard cores who follows closely year ’round no matter the circumstances, you missed something significant and exciting.

That exciting and significant development was the somewhat unexpected promotion and insertion into the regular lineup of outfield prospect Roman Quinn following the conclusion of the minor league playoffs.

The 23-year old speedster has worked his way towards the top of the Fightin’ Phils batting order, producing four stolen bases and eight runs scored over his first 65 plate appearances over 14 games, 13 of those as a starter.
Those may not sound overly impressive at first blush. But extrapolated out over a full season at the top of the order, and we are talking about a likely base line of 40 stolen bases and 80 runs scored for the switch-hitter.
I’ve been harping the talents of Quinn for the past couple of years, so the fact that I am a fanboy is no surprise to anyone who follows.
He is also weighed down by a .226 batting average that is sure to increase by at least 50 points as he adjusts to the big league level. His on-base percentage of .349 is already acceptable.
But I believe that anyone who has watched his speed on the bases and that same speed as well as his throwing arm in the outfield now is well aware that I haven’t been selling a bill of goods. Quinn is the real deal, and he is the Phillies future in center field.
Quinn is one of seven Phils outfielders for whom I am going to provide a grade for their 2016 performance.

I’ll be leaving out a quartet of relatively inconsequential players who each received fewer than 100 plate appearances: Darin RufDavid LoughEmmanuel Burriss, and Cedric Hunter.
The seven who will receive grades are Quinn, Odubel HerreraPeter BourjosTyler GoeddelCody AscheAaron Altherr, and Jimmy Paredes. So let’s begin with the dispensing of their 2016 report card grades.
SEE ORIGINAL article at That Ball’s Outta Here for grading breakdown.

Darin Ruf Likely Getting His Final Shot With Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies have a number of players who have been around for a few years, and appear to be running out of time with the ball club.

After the 2015 season ended it was disappointing outfielder Domonic Brown to whom the Phillies said goodbye. 
At some point either during or after the coming 2016 season, the club will say their goodbyes to former champs and longtime starters Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.
Another player who is at or near the end of the line with the team is first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf
Not a kid, Ruf will turn 30-years old this coming summer. There is no way that the big righty can be considered as a piece of the rebuilding plan to which the team is committed.
Usually in pieces having to do with the potential of a first base platoon, I have written on Ruf here previously. Just as Howard’s miserable numbers against left-handed pitching do not lie, neither do Ruf’s against righties.

In parts of four big league seasons with the Phillies, Ruf has accumulated a .212/.281/.380 slash line over 456 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. He has 37 extra-base hits among his 87 total hits off right-handers, including 16 home runs.
Compare that to his numbers vs. left-handed pitching: a .300/.390/.556 slash line with 73 total hits, including 29 extra-base hits, 16 of those as home runs. Those numbers are put together in just 288 plate appearances. 
A comparison of those numbers against righties and lefties demonstrates clearly that he needs to be platooned at this point in his career.

Phillies’ skipper Pete Mackanin addressed the possible platoon issue recently. As quoted by Philly Voice’s Ryan Lawrence

Darin Ruf is a pretty good weapon against left-handed pitchers…I’d like to get him in the lineup against lefties because he does such damage against them…The plan is to come up with the best combination where Howard is going to get sufficient at-bats to have a good year and so is Ruf, and you combine the two, and if we have a super year out of first base, it’s going to benefit the team.”

Unlike Howard, Ruf is not costing the Phillies any real money at all. He has made $500,000 and $515,000 the past two seasons. 
He is not eligible for arbitration until next winter, so he likely won’t cost the Phillies much more this year.
And unlike the now 36-year old ‘Big Piece’, Ruf is not too old that he cannot have a role as the Phillies move forward. 
As long as his arbitration asking price is not too large (he won’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season), and he continues to pound lefties, he may be able to find a place as a backup first baseman and left fielder as the rebuilding process moves forward, becoming a dangerous righty bat off the bench against lefty relievers.
Of course this could also be a last chance for Ruf. There is a very real chance that Howard will be dealt at some point during the 2016 season. 
If that should happen, with few other short-term options available, Ruf could be given a shot as the everyday first baseman against all pitching.
At his age and experience level, expecting some sort of revelatory breakout against righty pitchers is not going to happen. 
Ruf is what he is, a good option against lefty arms, mostly a waste against righties, and a below-average defender at any position, including first base. 
Baseball Reference had him as a -3 Rtot (Total Fielding Runs Above Average) player at the position in 2015. That’s not good.
At some point, Ruf is going to come up against a wave of young talent that will be emerging from the minor leagues over the next two seasons. 
Aaron AltherrOdubel HerreraPeter Bourjos, and Tyler Goeddel are already here in the outfield. All are younger and far more capable defensively.
The club moved Cody Asche out to left field last season, and is likely to utilize him as a backup there and at 3rd base again in 2016. 
Asche may even see some backup first base time. He could even keep Ruf in a platoon role if Howard is dealt.
As the team moves forward, it will need to find room for outfielders Nick Williamsand Roman Quinn
Current catching prospect Jorge Alfaro could end up at first base or on an outfield corner. And in a couple of years, Cornelius Randolph will be knocking on the big league door.
All that upcoming competition doesn’t even include the possibility that 26-year old minor league first baseman Brock Stassi could himself push to challenge for a short-term shot at the position at the Major League level. 
And who knows what the club might do with their #1 pick in the upcoming MLB Amateur Draft.
Just as 2015 proved to be the final shot in the Phillies career of Dom Brown, 2016 could very well prove the final shot with the team for Ruf. 
A 20th round draft pick of the Phils in 2009 out of Creighton University, he has already beaten the odds in reaching the big leagues and staying for parts of four seasons. 
Unless something unexpected happens, it could prove his own final season in red pinstripes.