Philly Sports Live

Days of Future Past

When you look at the 2014 Phillies 40 man roster, many names jump out at you. Youngsters like Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle, potential mainstays in the Phillies future might come to mind. Free agents A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd also stand out as intriguing players to watch this spring.

Two other Phillies will fight to make this team with very similar styles of play. They are 26 year old first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf and veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu.

The play of Ruf and Abreu is especially interesting given the fact that while both players possess a similar style of play, one is nearing the twilight of his career and the other is fighting to give his career a chance.

The similarities between the two start with their eye at the plate.

Ruf finished last season with a .348 on base percentage in 73 games played. Simply put, he is a disciplined hitter and can get on base with some regularity. Couple that good eye at the plate with the raw power he has, and the nickname “Babe” Ruf from his days in Reading isn’t so hard to understand.

Ruf hit 14 home runs in 251 at-bats last season, to go along with 30 runs batted in. These may seem like meager numbers, but keep in mind that Ruf played mostly in the second half of last season when Ryan Howard was shut down for the year. He can also provide a lot of pop from the right side of the plate, something this lefty heavy lineup could really use.

Ruf’s worst enemy continues to be the Phillies front office. For reasons unknown, Phillies’ brass has been reluctant to let Ruf play everyday in the big leagues. He is a natural first baseman, which is a problem with Howard still here and signed for big money. That has relegated Ruf to the outfield, where his range is minimal at best. So what?

With Domonic Brown still very raw in the outfield and Marlon Byrd’s range pretty well shot, what do they lose by plugging Ruf in as a platoon player if nothing else? The range is about the same, and the balance at the plate coupled with some youth could be an asset to this ever aging team.

Speaking of age, Bobby Abreu is fighting the odds to make this Phillies team at 38. If he does make the squad, it would be as little more than a pinch hitter and occasional starter. We all know that Abreu’s range was never great in right field, and he did not like getting close to the wall.

But Abreu can still be a serviceable player in the right situation. Now make no mistake, he is a .206 career pinch hitter. It is not something he has done a lot of. He’s also a career .292 hitter with a career on base percentage of .396. He has always seen the ball well, hit for average and gotten on base. That being said, he will also strike out and is not the fleet footed base runner that he once was.

But so far this spring Abreu has done what he always has…gets on base. Though he has yet to record a grapefruit league hit, he has walked three times and reached base today on an error.

The Phillies could use a dependable pinch hitter late in games to get the big hit or get on base when they need a run. Abreu could provide that, though the 2014 spring could very well be an audition for an American League gig as a designated hitter. A position for which he would be well suited.

Ruf and Abreu both have similar tools that may benefit the Phillies in 2014. The question then becomes whether or not the team will allow one career to blossom, and will they allow another career to continue in the place where it started?

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