Domonic Brown’s Last Shot


In Thursday night’s Phillies game against the New York Yankees, Domonic Brown had to leave early due to left Achilles’ soreness. The injury has apparently been bothering him for a while, leaving him “frustrated” that it wasn’t getting better. 

Leaving after going o-2 in the game would drop his spring slash line to .241/.371/.276 in 29 at bats, not one that inspires much confidence.

Much ink has been spent writing about Brown the prospect, Brown the trade chip, Brown the disappointment, and Brown the rebound candidate. Most stories, including here at TBOH, have to do with Brown only being productive in the majors for one month, and the rest of the time roaming the outfield like an extra from “The Walking Dead“.

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These kinds of comparisons have followed Brown since days of yore, yore in this case being the 2009 trading deadline, when he was considered to be “untouchable” in a deal for Roy Halladay. With those kinds of expectations put on him, Brown has been expected to live up to the label of premier prospect, the next big thing in the Phils lineup. He has fallen well short of those expectations.

This year, due to his own career and recent performances, the expectations for Brown are very low. Most fans want Brown playing for another team. Numbers like a .235/.285/.349 slash, a 77 OPS+, a .280 wOBA, and -8 DRS will do that to you.

However, with the Phillies being in a rebuild year, and Brown being a relatively cheap player at $2.6 million, he will be given the chance to rebuild some value. He will do this while also having to endure a position change.

Brown will return to right field, where he began his professional career. His best defensive weapon, his throwing arm, has always rated as a plus on the scouting scale. It will be of much better use in right field in the coming season.

He is still going to have to shore up his routes while fielding fly balls, but given that he will be returning to his preferred position, it is not unreasonable to expect his overall defensive performance to improve.

When it comes to predicting his coming season, it’s very difficult. His powerful month of May in 2013 showcased his ability to be an above average hitter in the major leagues. His downturn thereafter left scouts who initially projected stardom scratching their heads.

Last month here at TBOH, we presented a Best/Worst Case Scenario for Brown this coming season, the extreme sides of how Brown’s 2015 campaign could turn out. Valid points were made in this article, but again, those two predictions represent extremes.

My best guess is that Brown’s season will fall somewhere in between the expectations of failure and the most lofty possibilities displayed during that hot month in 2013. The ability to hit for power is evident, but with so many different changes to his swing in the past two years, the first thing he needs to look for is comfort in the box.

The position change could go a long way to establishing that comfort level. If that increased defensive comfort level materializes, he should do much better offensively.

Will he ever live up to his prospect label of being untouchable? No. That potential has long since proven false.

It’s time to adjust the expectations for Brown downward. Instead of thinking about MVP awards and All-Star games, fans should be hoping for a 3+ WAR player. That type of player has value. Would that prove valuable enough to want to eventually hold onto him by offering a long-term deal? That’s another fair question to ask.

Another fair question to consider: if Brown gets off to a hot start, and maintains that performance over the season, should the Phillies explore dealing him at the trade deadline?

At this point in their rebuild, the team needs to ask themselves this question: is Brown going to be productive long enough to hold onto for our next contending team? At 27 years old, the answer probably leans more towards “no” than “yes”.

If a fair offer comes across their table, the team should jump at it. Brown will only get more expensive as he gets older, particularly with Scott Boras as his agent. Would I expect them to trade him? No.

On the flip side, if Brown gets off to a cold start, it gives Ryne Sandberg every reason to plant Brown on the bench. While they are rebuilding, they also have to trot out a competitive lineup. If Brown isn’t hitting, he’s not part of that lineup, and shouldn’t be playing. After the season, the team could quietly cut ties with him and move on.

There is no doubt that this is a big season for Brown. Either he will become a player with which the team can build, or he will be employed by another organization come 2016. There is virtually nothing to lose by letting it play out this season.

Though spring training stats are virtually meaningless, there is concern that the 2015 version of Brown will be strikingly similar to the 2014 version. If this proves to be true, the decision becomes that much easier.

Hopefully, whatever final decision is made, it is a smart one based on results, one that benefits the Phillies this year and in the future.