PHILADELPHIA—Darin Ruf's goal entering the 2012 season was simple.
"Have a job for 2013," he said with a laugh.
Ruf is safe. His dazzling season at the plate for Double-A Reading will likely earn him a spot on the Phillies' 40-man roster this winter. In the short term, he may walk away with the Eastern League MVP award and end the season as the minor league home run leader.
Never a highly rated prospect because he lacked the speed or ceiling to excite scouts, Ruf is a hitter, pure and simple. A 20th-round senior sign out of Creighton in 2009, he owns a career minor league average just north of .300. The 26-year-old saved his best work for this season, and he was off the charts in August. An already good year became phenomenal when he went on a power binge, giving him 37 home runs and .317/.408/.625 numbers.
"It's kind of been a pinch-me year, especially the last few weeks with the power," Ruf said after hitting 19 home runs so far in August. Reading manager Dusty Wathan said Ruf had been "as hot as I've ever seen anybody in person."
A righthanded-hitting first baseman, Ruf used to be easy to overlook. But his power this season has led team officials to take a look at him in left field, where he won't face Ryan Howard as a roadblock to Philadelphia.
The Phillies want the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Ruf to play in Venezuela this winter so they can continue to evaluate what they have. After all, they're hungry for a righty-hitting outfielder.
"He could be a righthanded bat option," assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "Where do you play him is the question. If he can play left field it will make it easier, but he's limited in range."
Unlike Howard, who appeared blocked by Jim Thome early in his pro career, Ruf is eager to learn to play left field and ready for the challenge.
"Whatever I can do to further my career," he said.
• Righthander Shane Watson, the 40th overall pick in June, debuted in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and registered five scoreless, walk-free innings in four outings. A post-draft diagnosis of diabetes had delayed his first appearance.
• The Phillies converted 25-year-old Tim Kennelly to the mound at high Class A Clearwater after he hit .261/.330/.368 in an eight-year career spent primarily as a third baseman, catcher and right fielder.