Darin Ruf and Sonny Gray: Rookies Without Hype Sauce

In a time where names like Stephen Strasburg, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Gerrit Cole are dominating the headlines, rookie hype is making it awfully difficult for fantasy owners to acquire the services of several youngsters who are supposed to be leading us into a new generation of MLB superstars. But occasionally we get lucky and some diamonds-in-the-rough pass through without too much fanfare and linger on your waiver wire until they break out with a big game that lands them on an ESPN or MLB Network highlight reel. Darin Ruf and Sonny Gray may be well-known to the hardcore fantasy players, but without someone standing on a soapbox with a bullhorn, screaming “Pick this guy up now,” both seem to have slipped through the cracks in many leagues.

Darin Ruf, PHI  |1B,OF|  Ownership: ESPN – 2.6%  Yahoo – 2.0%  CBS – 11.0%

Ruf actually received a fair amount of attention during the offseason after powering up through the minors over the last two seasons. He posted a .311/.392/.511 slash line with 17 home runs for the Phillies’ High-A affiliate in 2011 and then earned himself a late-season cup of coffee in 2012 after a .317/.408/.620, 38-homer campaign at the Double-A level. He spent both seasons doing it with a double-digit walk rate and a sub 18-percent strikeout rate. But after batting just .246 with two home runs over spring training and with expectations of Ryan Howard returning to first base with a giant club in his hands, Ruf was sent to Triple-A where his ISO has dropped while his strikeout rate has spiked over 25-percent. If there was any hype before, it had certainly quieted down lately.

Now, with Howard on the DL for the next six to eight weeks, Ruf has an opportunity to put his power on display and fantasy owners should probably keep a close watch on his progress. Four games in, though, it’s pointless to discuss numbers. We know he is capable of hitting for power, but whether he does it in the majors is yet to be seen. But you keep a guy like Ruf on your watch-list because of opportunity. If he fails, then John Mayberry is likely to start getting extra work at first base and you’ve lost nothing. But if he hits well, he’s locked into the lineup for at least roughly two months. If the Phillies are contending by the time Howard is due back and Ruf is a big part of it, they’ll find a way to keep his bat in the lineup between first base and the outfield. If they aren’t contending, then there’s no reason to rush Howard back and Ruf continues to see regular at-bats. Either way, there’s potential to be had and the door is open. What happens inside will be up to Ruf.

Sonny Gray, OAK |SP,RP| Ownership: ESPN – 0.0%  Yahoo – 0.0%  CBS – 7.0%

Obviously there’s a Donnie Brasco reference to be made here, but I’ll pass on that to talk about Gray’s mid-90’s fastball, his plus-curve and an improving changeup that have led him to a 2.81 ERA and a 107:34 K:BB over 102.1 innings for Triple-A Sacramento. He’s given up just four home runs in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this season and is sporting a very sexy 2.61 FIP to go with everything else. With just one full season at the Double-A level and this, there really hasn’t been time or opportunity to hype the former Vanderbilt University star and 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft. And his flying under the radar is just what you need as he is about to make a name for himself in Oakland.

The latest reports have Gray coming up Wednesday and starting out his major league career in the bullpen. With the A’s rotation pretty much covered, this will be a great opportunity to let him hone his craft against big league hitters. If he proves to be successful, then he should be given the opportunity to spot-start and maybe, should Bartolo Colon be suspended or one of the other youngsters falter, earn a spot in the rotation during the second half. With high strikeout potential and a pitcher-friendly ballpark to call home, Gray just might be that final piece your rotation needs in the second half.



Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

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9 years ago

Do you think Ruf will be a good fantasy baseball player?

9 years ago
Reply to  Giovani

Maybe a younger version of Raul Ibanez? Worth a flier if you need the power.

9 years ago
Reply to  FeslenR

Is there any other version of Ibanez?

9 years ago
Reply to  Giovani

In deeper leagues, guys like Ruf are always worth a shot. He has the potential to be a very useful source of power at CI.