I have something to get off my chest, something that I feel you all need to know.
I’ve been struggling with a feeling of longing of late, one that I’ve found to be incurable, no matter what measures I take — and I feel the best way to express myself at this time is to simply let it out:
I miss them, you guys.
Darin Ruf... a name I haven’t heard in years. The king of thickness would barrel around the bases with immense slowness, and the next thing you know, he’s replaced by some 40 year-old looking first baseman. What was that guy’s name again?
Tommy Joseph... where did that guy go, man? One moment, he was crushing dingers over the left-field wall in Citizens Bank Park, the next he’s gone with the wind.
Or what about Jake Thompson, a premiere piece of the Cole Hamels trade. With his nasty slider, he must be an established ace by now... right?
Each of these players have a couple of things in common, the first being that they’re all former Phillies. However, the second, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is the fact that they are all currently playing in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) overseas.
Without these three players, the lengthy, dragged out rebuild process that every single Philadelphia fan endured wouldn't have been nearly as fun to watch, so it’s only fair that we pay them a visit, and see how they are getting along in their new habitat.
Tommy Joseph, First Base, 2016-2017
For those of you who don’t remember ToJo, allow me to refresh you:
Tommy was about as middle-of-the-road as it gets in terms of production. He was a guy that you could count on, time in and time out, to swat 20, and only 20, home runs in a season, while batting as close to .250 as he possibly could muster.
Over his two-season span with the Phillies, Joseph slashed .247/.297/.460 with 43 long balls — a perfectly average slash for a perfectly average player.
The speed demon also managed to net 2 stolen bases, and one awe-inspiring triple that reached Rickey Henderson levels of velocity.
While I joke about Tommy almost daily, it’s worth mentioning that the guy was a true team player.
When Rhys Hoskins burst onto the scene in 2017 with his ridiculous home run pace, Joseph could only watch as his starting spot at first base was swept out from under him. While Tommy was clearly frustrated by this, he took it all in stride, but was eventually DFA’d by the Phillies to make room for the newly-signed Jake Arrieta.
So, how is the now-27-year-old doing in his first year in the KBO, you might ask? Let’s just say he’s picked up right where he left off.
Tommy is currently slashing his usual; .250/.322/.462 with 7 long balls over just 29 games played. He had sustained an injury earlier on in the season, and therefore was kept from a hefty amount of playing time — but that hasn’t stopped him from barreling the ball.
He may be an average ballplayer, but it’s worth mentioning that ToJo was a heavily favored break out candidate at one point in time. His consistently high slugging percentage bodes well for his power ability, as he seems to hit the ball hard in every single one of his at-bats. If he can somehow manage to make everything click simultaneously, it would be no surprise to see him back in the Major Leagues at some point.
I, for one, miss our 40 year-old 27 year-old, and wish him nothing but success in his career going forward.
Jake Thompson, RHP, 2016-2018
Watching Jake Thompson pitch was always exciting. He featured some insane movement on his slider, movement that would make you second guess everything you learned about physics in High School.
Check it out: (Oh, hey, that’s Tommy Joseph!)
Thompson was highly touted as a prospect. He was acquired as a primary piece in the Cole Hamels trade, along with many other familiar names. He was, at the time, a two-pitch-pitcher, who featured a solid fastball, disgusting slider, and a work-in-progress changeup, one that still alludes him to this day.
His case was much like that of current Phillie, Nick Pivetta, who features some blasphemous movement, but can’t seem to nail down a third pitch.
Throughout his Major League career, Thompson could never seem to string it together. He would flash moments of promise, combined with moments of absolute despair, that ultimately led to his being shifted to the bullpen. After that, it was only a matter of time before he was DFA’d, and his career with the Phillies came to a close.
Over the span of his 3-year Philadelphia campaign, Thompson turned in a lifetime 4.87 ERA in 30 appearances, and only struck out 81 over the 116.1 frames he tossed.
Now 25 years of age, Jake is still struggling within the confines of the KBO. He currently sports a 4.74 ERA with 60 K’s in 62.2 innings of work.
Thompson is young yet, and has all the time in the world to figure himself out. He’s another one that I wouldn’t be surprised to see return to the Major Leagues at some point in the future, especially if he can develop that elusive third pitch.
Darin Ruf, First Base, 2012-2016
Ok, I know you’re not going to believe me, but, remember that six-foot-something, two-hundred plus pound first baseman the Phillies had a while back?
Yeah, that dude is a Korean National Treasure now.
It seems like just yesterday he would come out of nowhere with some massive offensive output, only to then regress into mediocrity the following day:
Darin Ruf has put up some absolutely crazy numbers in Korea.
Over the span of his last three seasons, Ruf, now 32, has slashed a whopping .320/.415/.579 with 70 homers in 313 games.
I’ll be the first to admit that the KBO isn’t exactly known for its pitching, and is, in fact, widely considered a hitters league, but to put up this kind of sustained production is at least somewhat impressive, no matter where you’re playing.
These numbers are quite the stark contrast from Darin’s career numbers with the Phillies, which were, for lack of a better word, Ruf (ba dum tssss.)
The Korean legend slashed a meager .240/.314/.433 with 35 homers in his time with the Phillies, and, while that line isn’t exactly terrible, it’s worth noting that his playing time was rather spread apart, as Ruf only played 286 games over his five season tenure with the club.
With all the success Ruf has found in Korea, I don’t expect to see him transition back to the Major Leagues. While his numbers are impressive, he’s now 32 years of age, and is being paid a hefty $1.7 Million per year overseas, which is more than he’d likely ever make in America were he to voyage back over this way.
That said, I for one am thrilled that Ruf has found a way to succeed in doing what he loves. He may not be performing on the brightest stage, but he certainly has found a way to make a name for himself, and I’m sure he’ll be revered throughout Korean Baseball for some time to come.
It’s always fun to check in on Phillies of old, especially when they’re given a change of scenery.
In every case, I wish each and every one of these guys sustained success, and eventual returns to the show in the future. They all, at one time or another, helped the Phillies through a difficult time, and led the franchise to where it is today — at the head of the National League East.
It’s not every day your favorite team’s rebuild pieces go on to become Korean super stars, but when they do, it’s worth admiring.