In the midst of introducing two of their newest members to the fold, one large looming question mark remained: what about the outfield?
Ruben Amaro Jr. played coy. He didn’t mention names, he didn’t say the Phillies were done on the market by any stretch. But with the options dwindling, he did state that if he had to, he’d be ready to take the roster as is and go to spring training.
Sounds absurd, right? Perhaps not.
Think about the available options for corner outfield on the market. Among free agents, there are Cody Ross and Nick Swisher. Reasonable trade options go from the more likely Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells – both of whom are being shopped by their respected teams – to Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer – who fit the description of corner outfielder the Phillies need but haven’t been mentioned in trade talks.
So that’s six players the Phillies could target. And yet, it may be in their best interest to leave all options where they are and stick to the roster they have.
Amaro hinted at a double platoon in the outfield. Many think he is playing coy. I believe that, mainly because it isn’t very likely that such a plan would work. There is simply too much uncertainty. But here’s how things could work out.
What if the Phillies went with no platoons at all but filled the two corner outfield spots internally?
Darin Ruf is being molded to be a left fielder, plain and simple. And that’s where he’ll start the season I believe. Why does Ruf work as an everyday player? In just 12 games and 33 at-bats last season, Ruf hit .333 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Six of his 11 total hits were for extra bases.
There is certainly no guarantees for Ruf. Keep in mind that before making any of these assumptions and predictions, Ruf has quite possibly the smallest sample size you could imagine. It’s impossible to evaluate what Ruf will become from 11 games. But, let’s use those 11 games to gather his rates early on.
Ruf homered every 11 at-bats and drove in nearly one run per game. If Ruf gets 400 at-bats and plays 100 games, he’s a 35-homer, 100-RBI guy.
This is not to say that Ruf will hit for more power than Ryan Howard in 2013 or instantly become a cleanup man. But let’s say Ruf hits at even half that rate. He’ll still probably reach 25 home runs and 75 RBIs, roughly the same as Ross, Swisher and the others.
Now, let’s turn to Domonic Brown as the right-field starter. Instead of assuming he will be the power hitter many expected him to be years ago, let’s consider him an effective mix of Jimmy Rollins and Ben Revere; a contact hitter with occasional power who can also do a lot on the bases. In that case, assume production in terms of RBIs in nearly the same as Ruf but cut down the number of home runs. Let’s go with 10 to 15 home runs and 60-70 RBIs.
If that is the case, then maybe the Phillies are done for the offseason already.
Is it a guarantee? No, not even close. Is it an option? Yes, most definitely.
And the only way to truly find out how much of a guarantee these two players are and what people can expect out of them in years to come is to give them regular playing time. That could start in 2013 and keep going from there.