Sometimes a good baseball career requires a little luck, particularly when it comes to playing time. It’s possible to be a really good player while sitting lower on a team’s depth chart. Darin Ruf might be a career example. His early career involved a little bad luck.
Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, consider the slash line in his first longer stretch with the big league organization in 2013: .247/.348/.458.
That was 73 games.
But it was near the end of those franchise days that saw Ryan Howard ahead of Darin Ruf at first base. The following year, Ruf was beleaguered by injuries. In 2016, he was traded to the Dodgers (who must have been interested after his recent Triple-A .529 SLG). By 2017, they sold him to the Samsung Lions in the KBO League.
Over the course of three seasons in South Korea, he would terrorize pitching. He hit 86 home runs in that time span.
Right before the global pandemic in 2020, Ruf signed with the Giants.
And last night, with his team down 5-1 in the fifth inning, he hit a grand slam off Alex Vesia to tie the game. He would end the night 1-for-3 with a HR, R, and 4 RBI.
The 35-year-old has gone deep in three straight games and now has 10 home runs on the season. Last year, in 262 at-bats, he hit 16 home runs and amassed 41 R and 43 RBI with a .271 AVG. I know it’s simplistic to extrapolate, but a season’s worth of at-bats could easily double these numbers, leaving us with a seriously good hitter. His Max Exit Velocity is in the 83rd Percentile according to Baseball Savant.
Although he does platoon with Brandon Belt at first base, in deeper leagues the power production might be useful if you have the space. I would contend that Ruf has always had the skill to be a major league player. Always. Perhaps he wouldn’t always be on our fantasy league radars, but we know a good real-life player when we see one.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday.
Yordan Alvarez (HOU): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
You might think Aaron Judge leads all the hitting categories this year, but Alvarez actually leads in SLG (.665) and OPS (1.073). After suffering from right-hand soreness for several days before the break, he returned to yesterday’s second game of a doubleheader and hit his 27th homer off Domingo Germán in the first inning. Alvarez is batting .309/.408/.665.
Mookie Betts (LAD): 1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.
The Dodgers managed a 9-6 victory against the Giants yesterday, due in large part to Mookie. He launched a three-run homer off Jarlín García, which would prove to be the game-winner. That’s his 21st homer of the season. Betts has 64 Runs, 21 HR, 50 RBI, and 7 SB on the year. He’s a top-tier hitter.
Aaron Judge (NYY): 1-6, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Sometimes there’s a man. Sometimes, there’s a man. Aaron Judge hit his 34th home run of the season yesterday off Brandon Bielak’s sinker. He’s now hitting .282/.366/.619 in 398 plate appearances. That slugging percentage is not a joke. Interestingly, it takes second place to Yordan Alvarez’s .665 SLG. Still, the dude abides.
Freddie Freeman (LAD): 1-2, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB.
Sometimes you have to get to Rodón early, and that’s what Freeman did yesterday, hitting a home run in the first frame. He’s slashing .322/.400/.538 for the season. Yesterday’s homer was the 14th of the season for the newly acquired Dodgers’ first baseman. Unsurprisingly, he has hit 8 of those homers in the last month. Freeman tends to heat up as the season goes along.
Adolis García (TEX): 2-5, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Currently slashing .239/.283/.447 on the season, Garcia launched a two-run shot in the fifth inning yesterday, which was his 16th homer of the season. Even with this show of power, he’s batting .200 in the last month. Garcia is a league leader in strikeouts with 106 (4th-highest) against only 21 walks. It’s a feast or famine approach that can hurt your BA, but it might bump the power numbers. He is among the league leaders in Average Exit Velocity, and his Hard Hit % is in the 77th percentile.
Seth Brown (OAK): 4-8, 2B, HR, 3 R, RBI.
Detroit’s Alex Lange couldn’t sneak a sinker past Seth Brown in the first game of a doubleheader yesterday. It was his 11th of the season, and he’s now batting .223/.275/.412. Seth Brown has been the cleanup hitter for the Athletics since Christian Bethancourt was traded to the Rays. The OBP of .272 is problematic, indicating a serious lack of patience at the dish.
DJ LeMahieu (NYY): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB.
In his last 89 at-bats, LeMahieu is hitting .337 with 24 Runs, 3 HR, 7 RBI, and 3 SB. In the last two weeks, he’s batting .410. If you need Runs and BA, trade for him because he’s even more valuable as a multi-position player (eligible for 1B, 2B, and 3B). He has a .487 OBP in July. Yesterday, he hit the home run off Cristian Javier’s fastball in the fifth inning.
Jeimer Candelario (DET): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.
The 98 mph sinker didn’t seem to sink very much, as Domingo Tapia left it over the heart of the plate and Candelario slugged it out of the ballpark. The power was a pleasant surprise, but it was only his 7th homer of the season. He has a .590 OPS. Compared to his career .725 OPS, the 28-year-old is having a down year. The numbers aren’t pretty. Last year in 557 at-bats, he had 16 home runs and a line of .271/.351/.443, but this year his line is .198/.263/.327. That’s the kind of line that makes someone wonder if Candelario is playing through something. Maybe yesterday’s home run is a precursor to a stronger finish.
Alex Bregman (HOU): 4-8, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
It was his 12th home run of the season. Bregman smacked the homer off Domingo Germán in the first inning of the second game of their doubleheader. He’s now slashing .245/.359/.420 on the year. This goes along with 48 R and 49 RBI. He’s a serious value at the hot corner.
Gleyber Torres (NYY): 2-9, HR, R, 2 RBI.
I’m a Torres fan. I’ll admit it. After last season’s frustrations, it felt inevitable that he could bounce back, especially in that New York lineup. In the second game of their doubleheader against the Astros, Torres smacked a two-run homer in the third inning against Luis Garcia. This was his 15th home run of the season. Torres only hit 9 home runs in 2021. His BA and OBP are not that far off from last year’s numbers. The bounce-back season is represented by the return of some of those power numbers. He’s gone from a .366 SLG in 2021 to a .486 SLG in 2022. And he’s still only 25 years old.
Sean Murphy (OAK): 1-6, HR, R, 3 RBI.
As far as catchers go, Sean Murphy is a solid choice. He is in the lineup nearly every day, he usually bats third, and he can give you some pop. That’s exactly what he did last night against Detroit’s Garrett Hill. In the sixth inning, the 27-year-old hit a three-run moonshot to center field. He’s now hitting .239/.309/.414. I don’t have to tell you, this is a perfectly healthy line for catching duties if you’re looking for some help in your fantasy baseball league. Murphy is owned in 58% of Yahoo leagues.
Chas McCormick (HOU): 3-8, HR, R, 2 RBI.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, McCormick launched a two-run home run off New York pitcher JP Sears to give the Astros a 7-2 lead. McCormick’s numbers are down a little from last year, but this may be the product of four hitters sharing time in one spot. He has a .726 OPS on the season, but Fangraphs says that both his BA and SLG should be lower.
Evan Longoria (SF): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.
Activated from the injured list just before the break, Longoria is batting .273 in his first 11 at-bats. That includes yesterday’s home run, his 9th of the season in only 143 at-bats. Phil Bickford placed a 95 mph fastball on the inside part of the plate, and Longoria launched it 407 feet. He’s now batting .245/.331/.469.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)