Ruf, Brown could blow up platoon plans

Darin Ruf (Photo: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

As things stand now, the Phillies could find themselves platooning players in both left and right field. Spring Training though could change those plans if two young players look like they're ready for full-time spots in the Phillies outfield.

We know that Ben Revere will be in center field for the Phillies. After that, right and left field could be turned into some sort of new Abbott and Costello "Who's On First?" routine.

As of now, the plan calls for a double-platoon, with Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. making up the right-handed hitting portions of the platoon and Domonic Brown and Laynce Nix being the left-handed hitters.

Everybody wants to see Darin Ruf in left field, but keep in mind, that he hasn't played above Double-A and he's still learning to play left field. Are fans going to be patient if and when he goes into a prolonged slump or he blows a key defensive play in the field that leads to a Phillies loss?

We've all seen the implosion of Domonic Brown and nobody is saying that Ruf's career will go the same way, but it can happen. A young player, learning a new position, is bound to have some struggles.

Speaking of Brown, is this the year that he puts it all together?

There's no denying that the Phillies outfield is indeed a puzzle and right now, the only way the pieces fit is in a double-platoon. But if Ruf and Brown can put up strong enough performances in spring training, either, or both, could wind up with full-time jobs. That scenario would be a home run for the Phillies, to say the least.

It would mean that Brown would be starting to show that he's becoming the player that the Phillies had hoped he was going to be. It would be a payoff for their patience with the 25-year old was warranted. Throughout his time with the Phillies - 147 games over three seasons - Brown has hit just 12 home runs and has a .236 lifetime average in the majors. Initially, 12 home runs was thought to be about what Brown would post in less than half-a-season, not over almost a full season.

Since he is still just 25, Brown is by no means, a bust. There is still time for him to put together the type of career that the Phillies had hoped for. In 2012, he was healthy, which was one hurdle that he had to overcome. He has also showed glimpses of breaking through and perhaps, extended playing time in the majors would help him to complete that break through. The potential of having him in a platoon could also serve to boost his confidence and ultimately, his career.

Last season, Brown hit .250 against right-handers and just .196 against lefties. In his career, the numbers aren't quite as stark, but he still hits .035 points higher against right-handers than he does against southpaws. With those numbers, a platoon situation might be well warranted.

As for Ruf, there is no denying that his 2012 season was nothing less than spectacular. The fact that he was with the Phillies in September was something never imagined at the start of the year, but he earned his way there with a franchise record 38 home runs at Double-A Reading. He added three more home runs in just 33 at-bats at the major league level to give the promise that he just might be able to skip Triple-A and head straight for the majors.

Ruf hit a cool .333 (11-for-33) in his time with the Phillies and while his numbers show better stats against left-handers, his .294 average against righties is no slouch. He absolutely pounded lefties to the tune of .375. Ruf had just one more at-bat against righties then he did left-handers, so it's easy to compare what he did.

Across the board, Ruf's numbers don't scream for a platoon. He struck out six times against both righties and lefties. The only real disparity comes in RBI, where eight of his ten runs driven in came against a left-hander.

The truth is that Ruf could actually be hurt by being platooned. Perhaps, the Phillies should consider just one platoon - with Mayberry teaming with either Brown or Nix - and leave Ruf planted in left field, with late game defensive moves to avoid any costly miscues.

As for Nix and Mayberry, the numbers are telling. Nix, a left-handed hitter, has a career average .070 points higher against right-handers than against lefties. Mayberry, has a career line that is .052 points higher against left-handers. Those numbers scream for both to either be in a platoon or in a position where they can come off the bench in specific spots.

Complicating matters is the fact that the Phillies are still pursuing outfielder Scott Hairston, who reportedly wants two-years and $8-million. The Mets have offered him one-year at $2-million and there are no details on whether the Phillies have officially entered the bidding.

Signing Hairston would further complicate things, because he too, is more of a platoon type player, who hits left-handers at a .276 clip, while hitting righties at just .229 over his career. It's thought that Hairston wants to be an everyday outfielder, which only the Mets are likely to offer.

Also listed as a possibility is a deal for the Cubs Alfonso Soriano, who has legitimate lifetime numbers against both righties and lefties. Soriano is also decent enough to play everyday defensively and is a good player in the clubhouse. One problem would be the fact that Soriano is primarily a left fielder, which would effectively block Ruf.

While there are no easy answers, the Phillies perfect scenario would be for both Ruf and Brown to have killer spring campaigns. That would clear the way for both to play everyday, with occasional rests against some of the tougher pitchers and some time off for defensive reasons. The odds that both catch fire this spring aren't great, but at least it's something in the realm of possibility.


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