Darin Ruf was close to a non-entity at the plate for the Mets last season after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline, but GM Billy Eppler is not writing Ruf off as spring training nears.
"He's got a long track record of hitting left-handed pitching," Eppler told Pat Ragazzo of SI.com. "He hit left-handed pitching in 2022 and 2021. Unless some things have materially changed, we would bet that skill still exists in him."
In 29 games with the Mets last season, Ruf slashed just .152/.216/.197 with zero home runs and three doubles in 74 plate appearances.
And it wasn't bad luck that did Ruf in after joining with the Mets. He often looked overmatched at the plate, unable to put together competitive at-bats.
Still, what Eppler said about Ruf's past success against left-handers cannot be argued with.
Ruf crushed lefties in 2021, slashing .283/.414/.593 against them in 140 plate appearances. For his career, Ruf has hit .272/.367/.523 against left-handers.
If Ruf's struggles with the Mets last season were really a two-month blip, perhaps he can be a meaningful contributor for them in 2023 as the short end of a DH platoon that will likely have Daniel Vogelbach starting most games against right-handers.
But with the Mets adding Tommy Pham (who, like Ruf, is most valuable against left-handers), squeezing both Ruf and Pham on the roster -- and justifying carrying both of them -- could be difficult. Especially because they're both one-dimensional (mostly bat only) players.
Ruf has the ability to play first base and both corner outfield spots, but is a poor defender at all three positions.
Meanwhile, Pham was one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball last season, in the ninth percentile in Outs Above Average.
It should also be noted that if the Mets carry Francisco Alvarez and/or Brett Baty on the Opening Day roster, it would further complicate attempting to fit Ruf on the team.
If Alvarez makes the team, it would likely be in a hybrid role where he gets plenty of starts at catcher while also getting DH at-bats.
If Baty makes the team, he would probably initially be the long end of a third base platoon with Eduardo Escobar, who crushes lefties and would be a natural choice to get DH at-bats against them.