By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Domonic Brown, Outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies
2012 season: 56 G, 187 AB, .235 BA, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 21 R, .712 OPS
Heading into the 2009 season, Baseball America rated Domonic Brown as the No. 48 prospect in the game. Before 2010, he had climbed to No. 15, and before 2011, he moved up all the way to No. 4. Needless to say, big things were expected from Brown when a spot finally opened up on the big league club. Pat Burrell had moved on, and Brown was set to take over as the Phillies’ newest corner outfielder.
Unfortunately for Brown, things didn’t quite work out as expected. He fractured the hamate bone in his right hand during Spring Training, which might have changed the course of Brown’s career. Instead of instilling himself in the Phillies’ lineup, Brown began the season on the disabled list. Hand injuries are also notorious for sapping power, which might explain why Brown struggled so much when he did come back – he hit just .245 with five home runs and a .725 OPS in 56 games.
The problem for Brown is that even after that injury-plagued season, he continued to struggle. In three more at-bats last year, he put up a very similar line. With 147 big league games under his belt, the 25-year-old outfielder owns just a .236 average with 12 homers, five steals and a .703 OPS – far from the expectations that were once heaped upon Brown.
Still, that’s not to say that he’s no longer got any upside. Brown has only ever played sporadically in the Majors, which might have contributed to his struggles. There are also some positive signs portending a bounce-back. For one, Brown was a career .296 hitter in the minors, which suggests he can do better at the Major League level. He’s also shown good patience and pitch recognition, walking 10.9% of the time in the bigs. Despite his poor batting averages, he’s never posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage for the Phillies.
If he reaches his potential, Brown could be a potential All-Star. He can offer power, speed, average, on-base percentage and above-average fielding. For his sake and their own, the Phillies need to give Brown a regular role this year in order to figure out what he really is. Delmon Young will likely start the season on the disabled list after ankle surgery, which means Brown should at least be the team’s Opening Day starter.
The Georgia native has been great so far in Spring Training, hitting .365 with four homers and a 1.085 OPS. Brown has also continued to display his patience, drawing six walks against seven strikeouts. Many people say Spring Training statistics don’t matter, but when a player is fighting for a job, there’s no reason for them to take it easy. Brown is trying to show that he deserves a Major League job – if he earns it, he could be a young, impact bat on a Philadelphia team that’s largely comprised of declining position players.
Next up on March 18: Washington Nationals