They were two separate phone calls made with no warning to either individual.
They had no way of knowing what they would be asked.
Yet Joe Jordan and Steve Noworyta, who have more than 200 Philadelphia Phillies minor league players to keep track of, mentioned the same three names when asked who had exceeded their expectations this year.
It may seem like an inconsequential tidbit, but it's telling that the director of player development (Jordan) and the assistant director of player development (Noworyta) are on the same page.
Without hesitation, Jordan and Noworyta mentioned Darin Ruf's name first.
Cody Asche and Cesar Hernandez (in that order) were the other two minor leaguers who surpassed Jordan and Noworyta's hopes.
Ruf entered the 2012 season as the organization's 20th best prospect (according to MLB.com), and hardly someone Philadelphians were talking a lot about.
Then he started hitting one home run after another. By August, fans were practically begging the organization to promote him to the big leagues. He didn't disappoint when he finally made it to Philadelphia in September. After hitting 39 home runs with Double-A Reading (regular-season and playoffs), Ruf hit three more in just 33 at-bats with the Phillies.
"That's a case where a guy got to the upper levels and figured himself out and it all came together," Jordan told The Morning Call last week. "You don't always see that with guys, especially their first time in Double-A and then the big leagues. No one did it any better for us this year in the minor leagues."
So far in the Venezuela Winter League (eight games), Ruf's hitting .276 (8-for-29) with four home runs and seven RBIs.
One of the biggest questions about Ruf is whether or not he can make the transition from first base to left field. After Ruf played 29 games in the outfield in Reading, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel put him in left for 46 innings, but he had only five chances.
"The most important things about Ruf are he's smart and he does have a good feel for the game," Jordan said. "He's just a big guy; he moves fine. He'll learn to read the ball off the bat better and get a step on the ball.
"This is going to be about offensive production, and he will be fine in left field if he hits enough."
In one year, Asche moved up three levels. After hitting .192 for short-season Williamsport in 2011, he skipped over Low-A Lakewood and started 2012 with High-A Clearwater. After hitting .349 in 62 games with the Threshers, Asche was promoted to Reading, where he hit .300 in 68 games. He struck out only 93 times in 559 total plate appearances.
"We decided to be aggressive and assigned him [to Clearwater] and he took care of us the rest of the season," Jordan said. "He made tremendous progress."
So much so that Jordan said Asche is "in the conversation" to get an invite to spring training 2013.
Asche is keeping up his pace this fall. In eight games in the Arizona Fall League, Asche is hitting .316 (10-for-32) with four doubles and a home run.
Hernandez also jumped over Lakewood, going right from Williamsport to Clearwater in 2011. He began the 2012 season at Reading, where he did so well (.304 BA in 103 games), that he got the call to go to Triple-A Lehigh Valley late in the year.
"When the season started, I said, 'Do we need to give Cesar Hernandez more time in Single-A?'" Jordan said. "And we wound up sending him to Double-A, and he exceeded our expectations, and then we wanted him to experience Triple-A before the season was over."
The organization opted to have Hernandez play in the Venezuela Winter League, where in seven games he's batting .250 (6-for-24) with a triple and four stolen bases.