Twitter exploded last night with the big news of the deal between the Yankees and Mariners. It kept on going with the news the Yankees had also signed Karaoke Kuroda. Such news would provide the easiest route to creating a blog post. But, geez, there have already been a million posts on the topic already. What can be said that Dave Cameron, Brien Jackson and Buster Olney haven't already written? This writer's take in a nutshell is that the Yankees performed a masterstroke for their rotation which should already improve what was a 92-win team. However, Montero is a special talent and that may hurt for a long time. Thinking about a prospect like Montero led to thoughts of another "can't miss" prospect that has had trouble getting started in the big leagues: Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Brown was only a 20th Round draft pick (2006) so he sort of came out of nowhere. But since that time, he's landed on Baseball America's top fifty prospect for the last three seasons. Each year on the list came lower and lower until he was ninth on the list before the 2011 season. But Brown's start to his major league career have been bumpy.
That beginning began at the end of July in 2010. Domonic Brown made his debut on July 28, 2010 against Edwin Jackson and the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona. Brown went two for four with a double and two RBIs in his first game. Nice debut! He was a late replacement in the next game and went hitless in one at bat. The following day, he went two for four and after three games was hitting .500. Let the fun begin! Except it didn't.
Brown played fairly consistently the rest of the season but he looked more and more lost. By the end of 2010, in 35 games, Brown finished with a slash line of, .210/.257/.355. Ugh. That wasn't what the Phillies were expecting. The Phillies did keep Brown on the post season roster but he only got into a couple of games and was zero for three in the post season. What was doubly disturbing about Brown's performance was that he struck out 35 percent of the time. The whispers were that he was totally lost at the plate and pitchers had found flaws in his approach and were exposing them. The strikeouts and lack of walks were totally uncharacteristic of Brown's minor league statistics where he was seen to be a patient hitter who made consistent contact.
Brown didn't make his 2011 debut for the Phillies until May 21 and after his first ten games was batting .333. And Brown played regularly through June and into July. But by the end of the month of July, his average was down to .246 and the Phillies made a big push for playoffs by acquiring Hunter Pence from the Astros. Pence took over Brown's spot and Domonic Brown was sent to Triple A where he finished the season except for a brief couple of games at the end of September.
So why would such a middling campaign of 2011 be interesting for Domonic Brown? First, his high strikeout rate disappeared. After fanning 35 percent of the time in 2010, he cut that down to 16.7 percent in 2011. The lower rate was a result of more discipline at the plate where he brought his rate of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone down from 30.8 percent in 2010 to 28.9 percent in 2011. Plus, his swinging strike rate went down from 13.5 percent in 2010 to 7.7 percent in 2011. Combine all that to improving his walk rate from 7.1 percent in 2010 to 11.9 percent in 2011 and it seems to show a young hitter much more comfortable in his approach and putting up numbers much closer to his minor league performance. The other promising sign from Brown's 2011 season was that he fared very well against left-handed pitching (he bats left-handed).
But he still only hit .246. That might be a reflection of his .274 BABIP which almost certainly will improve in 2012. And that's where we are now. The Phillies have (it appears) finally gotten over their absurd love affair with Raul Ibanez. Ibanez had some big hits for the Phillies at opportune times, but overall, he was a drag on the Phillies' offense and an millstone to the team's defense. The negative fielding metrics for Ibanez were nearly historic in 2011. Domonic Brown hasn't shown a whole lot defensively either, but he has to be better than Ibanez.
So what should we expect in 2012? Shane Victorino will play center and Hunter Pence will be in the line up all year. That would seem to open up the third outfield position to Domonic Brown. And projections from Bill James believe Brown will respond and have a fine season. Other projections such as Fans and RotoChamp aren't so sure. James believes Brown will be an every day player where the other two only predict 300 plate appearances or so.
And that's the rub here. The Phillies seem slow to believe in Domonic Brown as a full time option. Yes, he's been their most talked about prospect, but the Phillies don't act like they are sure he's the real deal. From this writer's perspective, the Phillies really should give Domonic Brown a full time shot and see what happens. If he blossoms, then all the better. If he fails to shine, then at least they will know and can make other plans. Domonic Brown looks like a great player and needs to be given a full opportunity to show what he can do.