How Much Time Should Phillies Give Domonic Brown?


The Phils hope to see a little more of this (a home run) from Brown in 2013. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the concern and hand wringing over the Phillies outfield situation centers on the uncertainty over just what they have in Domonic Brown.

The Domonic Brown timeline is well known by now.

He was one of baseball’s most highly rated prospects, ranked as high as #4 overall by Baseball America before the 2010 season. A late season cup of coffee in 2010 whet everyone’s appetites. In 2011, he was the assumed heir of Jayson Werth‘s right field job until injuries suffered by Brown in spring training forced the Phillies into Plan B (Hunter Pence). By that point, the Phils had soured on him sufficiently enough that he started the 2012 season in Triple A, finally finishing last year with the big club once the team became sellers at the trade deadline.

It’s fair to say Brown has never really been given a fair shot to be an everyday Major League starter.

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162 Game Avg.1625424776311226313646256102.236.315.388.70390

It’s also fair to say that Brown, in his brief engagements at the Major League level, has not done much to inspire anyone’s confidence.

Clearly, 147 Major Leagues games, spread out over parts of three seasons, is not enough experience with which to gauge a player who will be just 25 years old this year. And given his tools, minor league production, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of other options for the Phils, Domonic Brown should be given the everyday starting right field job in 2013.

The real question is, how long should Brown’s rope be?

The Phils are making one last playoff run with their championship core next year. After ’13, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz are all free agents and could be gone. Players like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Cliff Lee are not getting any younger.

And while 2013 is a year of some transition, it’s clear the Phillies would like to make one more push with this group of players.

If they wish to do that, then letting Dom Brown, who is still an underwhelming defender and hasn’t shown much interest in stealing bases at the Major League level, post a .230/.310/.390 slash line in right field, should not happen.

It’s been argued here that Brown should be used as one-half of a platoon with a player like Darin Ruf or John Mayberry Jr. And, judging by his career splits at the Major League level, one could argue that would be the best thing to do.

vs RHP as LHB133383337821831149.243.324.412.736.276109
vs LHP as LHB6410996206019.208.284.302.586.24768
vs LH Starter382010189132070213.225.307.371.678.25793
vs RH Starter1099339134444821731045.238.317.392.710.273102

But throughout his career in the minors, Brown has actually done quite well against lefties, with no real difference in production against right-handers and left-handers. There is also one other big reason to let Brown jump in the pool and see if he can swim.

The Phillies need to see what Brown can do against lefties, once and for all. They need to see if this guy is for real or not.

Of course, the Phils have to balance the development of Brown with trying to win the NL East once again, this time in a division that is much tougher than in years past. And, while it’s been noted that the Phils have been wildly successful recently with substandard play by one of their corner outfielders in recent years…

…it’s also true that the Phils’ pitching staffs in 2010 and 2011 were much stronger than the 2013 version is shaping up to be. The total WAR of the Phils’ 2010 starters (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, Blanton, and Kendrick) was 16.8. In 2011, (Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Worley, Blanton) it was an otherworldly 29.9. Last year, Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley and Kendrick totaled just 10.3.

August 22, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown (9) makes a diving catch during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Is the 2013 rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Kendrick and John Lannan good enough to cover up for one or two corner outfielders with WARs at or below zero?

Unless Halladay returns to his ’10 and ’11 form, Kendrick takes another big step forward, and Lannan survives pitching in Citizens Bank Park, it’s highly doubtful.

If the Phils are serious about making one last playoff run, they cannot rely on their starting rotation or bullpen to single-handedly carry them. That luxury is gone.

This team needs more production from the offense than it has been generating in recent years if they want to return to the postseason.

So, how long should the Phillies give Domonic Brown?

If Brown can somehow find a way to post a .260/.330/.480 slash line, with a fair amount of home runs, doubles and stolen bases mixed in through June, and can find a way not to be a detriment in right field, then the Phils should be willing to stick with him throughout the entire season.

There is so much promise there, and perhaps, like Chase Utley, Brown will benefit from being given a real opportunity to win a job as the everyday right fielder.

But if the Phillies are still in contention and Brown is still not producing any better than .230/.300/.380, the Phillies must move on and either find a trade partner, or relegate him to a platoon role.

There is no doubt the Phils have not handled Domonic Brown well while he has been in their care. Being jerked around from the minors to the majors every year makes it difficult for a player to progress.

So now is the time for the Phillies to give Dom Brown his shot. But it shouldn’t last forever.

Eventually, the tools and the promise have to actually turn into production.

Eventually, Dom Brown has to actually, you know, be good.