If there’s one current player who draws the most ire from the Mets fan base, it’s definitely designated hitter/first baseman Darin Ruf. And sure, his performance hasn’t been great. But it’s just the whole sequence of events that’s led us to where we are.
Instead of making a bigger splash at last year’s trade deadline, general manager Billy Eppler acquired supplemental pieces. That included Daniel Vogelbach and Ruf to platoon at DH. To pry Ruf from the San Francisco Giants, New York sent J.D. Davis and three (!) prospects to the Bay.
It’s not like they were necessarily top prospects. But still, that looks fishy on paper. In 74 plate appearances last year with the Mets, Ruf proceeded to slash .152/.216/.197. That led to a 24 wRC+ and -0.9 fWAR. One would think he’d need to show something during camp to justify a spot on the Opening Day roster.
The right-handed hitter doubled on Thursday against the Atlanta Braves, but it’s hardly been a good spring. Through 25 plate appearances, he’s hitting .160/.250/.240 with three walks and eight strikeouts.
His general lack of production has made us start to wonder how different the Mets’ bench will look next week in Miami. Manager Buck Showalter doesn’t want to hear about it, though. He’s typically quick to defend his players, and he did that with Ruf on Thursday. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo caught the quote:
Darin Ruf has had a tough spring, but his manager offered a strong defense of him this morning, saying Ruf is "hitting .600" with multiple HRs on the back fields.
"No one wants to talk about that," Showalter said.
Ruf just doubled to improve his Grapefruit average to .167.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) March 23, 2023
Oh, Buck. I love you, but come on, man. This is a little ridiculous, don’t you think? Nobody may want to talk about how well Ruf is hitting on the backfields because they’re probably not going to watch him there.
Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil got some ABs in a minor-league game on Thursday. People cared about that because Nimmo is working back from an injury and McNeil is trying to get himself caught up after the World Baseball Classic.
Nobody is purposely heading to the backfields to see how Ruf is performing at the dish. Mostly because there’s not much major-league pitching in those games. So, yea — it’s great that he’s crushing the ball, but it doesn’t carry a ton of weight in my eyes. Let’s see him get hot with the bat in actual Grapefruit League games. You know, where players are doing their final ramp-up before the regular season and starting to take things more seriously.
I sure hope this isn’t the start of the Mets justifying a roster spot being given to Ruf instead of someone else who deserves it. If they do, we’ll just have to hope that the leash is incredibly short, and if he struggles out of the gate, it doesn’t drag on for too long.
You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.