Dom Brown Earning His Playing Time

Right fielder Domonic Brown was listed on many pre-season prognosticators’ ballots for NL Rookie of the Year for the 2011 season. It was universally agreed upon that he was the Phillies’ number one prospect, a long-coveted offensive weapon that GM Ruben Amaro refused to relinquish, even for the likes of Roy Halladay. For Brown to live up to the hype would be a feat in and of itself. The big problem would be finding consistent playing time in the Majors, as the Phillies went into the season expecting Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco to play every day at the outfield corners while Brown got consistent at-bats with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

As the Phillies struggled offensively and Shane Victorino went on the disabled list, rumors began to surface that Brown may make his 2011 debut. Amaro hushed the rumors by insisting that Brown was staying with the Iron Pigs. However, upon insistence from manager Charlie Manuel, Amaro quickly changed his mind and Brown was shipped to Philadelphia to make his season debut on May 21.

Initially, Brown was mostly shielded from left-handed starting pitching. The Phillies faced four left-handed starters from Brown’s promotion to the end of the month, but Brown started against only one (Travis Wood; Brown went 0-for-5). In June, the Phillies faced six lefties, but Brown again started against only one of them (Ted Lilly; Brown went 1-for-4).

More recently, however, as Brown has become acclimated with his environment, Manuel has loosened up, letting Brown start against two lefties in the same series in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Brown faced both Ricky Romero and Jo-Jo Reyes, notching a combined two hits in nine at-bats. Whether he will continue to get starts against southpaws in the future remains to be seen, but it is a vote of confidence that he got the nod in his first two chances in July.

At the dish, Brown has shown considerable progression in a short amount of time. Known for great plate discipline as he blazed through Minor League competition, Brown struck out in nearly 40 percent of his 70 plate appearances with the Phillies last season while only walking in seven percent. While he didn’t look completely lost, he looked rather rough around the edges and that was what prompted Amaro to start the season with Brown at Lehigh Valley.

This year, he looks like the uber prospect we all expected. In over 150 plate appearances, his strikeout rate is down significantly (15 percent) and his walk rate is up (11 percent). The 0.84 walk-to-strikeout ratio is four times better than it was last year. Additionally, he has shown more power (.176 ISO) and has hit right- and left-handers about equally well (.320 and .325 wOBA, respectively). While his defense in right field has been lackluster, his performance at the plate has been encouraging, even if he hasn’t lived up to the Jason Heyward-esque expectations of the pre-season.

With Ibanez looking more toasted than inconsistent, Manuel chose to bench him against Romero and Reyes, starting Francisco in his stead. The Phillies have been linked to right-handed bats in trade rumors, but perhaps the biggest coup of the second half would be turning left field into a productive position while Brown flourishes in right field. As illustrated here, the corner outfield spots have been a problem to this point for the Phillies; fixing that will inevitably involve faith in Brown, regardless of which right-handed hitters the Phillies could acquire.

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14 comments

  1. sean

    July 07, 2011 08:09 AM

    just traded for him in my fantasy league, but had been trying for weeks(bye travis snider). I could not stand all the “he’s struggling” that people had been saying for weeks now, it’s mind boggling. As you pointed out his k:bb rate has been really good so far, the only area where he’s been bad is his AVG.

    I would say the only area he’s “struggled” if you call it that is squaring up the ball and hitting line drives. he’s currently at 16.5%, which i think can be improved 2-3% points, and with that will come a higher babip due to the increase chance of hits from line drives(ML avg .719). Brown currently has .632 avg on his line drives, so even there is place to increase.

  2. LTG

    July 07, 2011 08:24 AM

    He’s also been hitting the ball to left field in the last month, which I can’t remember him doing at all last year. This seems to me a sign of an improved approach at the plate.

    And now that he’s proved he can adjust to MLB, we can trade him for Hunter Pence, right?

  3. Eric

    July 07, 2011 08:37 AM

    What’s sad is I’ve been saying for months that I thought JM, Jr. should have at least platooned with Raul. When the guy gets opportunities, he produces.

    People keep going on about a OF right power bat, but he’s probably sufficient enough. This team should really start looking for a third basemen.

  4. EddiePinz

    July 07, 2011 08:56 AM

    Bill,

    Since bullpen management has been your pet cause this season, I was wondering what you thought about its use last night. I really thought Kendrick should have been brought out for the 6th. And I know that the cupboard is pretty bare after Stutes and Bastardo, but I would be curious how you felt about the use of Herndon/Carpenter/Baez.

  5. Jim Z.

    July 07, 2011 09:01 AM

    John Kruk on Baseball Tonight doesn’t like Brown that much. He says that his swing needs to be fixed (too long) to be an effective MLBer.

  6. sean

    July 07, 2011 10:12 AM

    yeah and sal paolantonio thinks dom brown won’t be starting in the playoffs and is a bust because he “looks like a football player and runs like one”. whatever that means.

  7. Chris

    July 07, 2011 10:53 AM

    Kruk says he can’t hit a fastball. And so far…he’s been right, at least in terms of results. Him starting to hit balls to left may just be him being late on FB’s, although it’s better than swinging and missing or fouling pitches off. He has crushed most off speed stuff though and the plate discipline is promising although it’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain his current K% considering he’s never had a K% this low in the minors.

  8. Steve

    July 07, 2011 03:38 PM

    Can Hunter Pence play Left Field?

  9. Giving_Chase

    July 07, 2011 03:53 PM

    @Steve – Right fielders can play left field. Left fielders, unless they have the arm, normally don’t/can’t play right field.

  10. Bob

    July 07, 2011 07:25 PM

    Calling his defense in RF as ‘lackluster’ is being generous. He has stunk out there looking unsure of himself even on a bunch of routine plays. Good thing is that his defense should only improve a bit but he looks very much like the guy who was clueless in RF in Reading 2 summers ago without much improvement.

  11. Tim M

    July 07, 2011 08:14 PM

    Let’s get Michael Cuddyer in Right Field and call it a wrap.

  12. edwardj

    July 09, 2011 10:34 PM

    the Phils need to stop messing with his swing. I like how the “experts” Kruk, Sal Pal and the 97.5 crew think he has holes in his swing, when he was unanimously cited as the top prospect in baseball by people who actually know what they are talking about. Not to mention he consistently hit over .300 in the minors. The Phils over-reacted after he struggled last year in minimal at bats and they are still paying for it.

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