Domonic Brown: Reasons to Worry About the Philadelphia Phillies Outfielder
In the past few years, the Phillies have been incredibly aggressive and competitive when it comes to attracting big-name players. In order to do so, however, they had to make some pretty big trades in which they parted with some of their best and most highly touted prospects.
It is for that reason that Domonic Brown is even more important to the Phillies organization.
In the Halladay trade, Brown was the one Phils prospect that was considered untouchable. Now, he is on his last option with the team and considered possible trade bait. He hasn't experienced the meteoric rise to the majors that many expected, and he still has a long way to go if he ever hopes to be a great major league player.
That said, Brown is already 24 and is running out of time to prove to teams everywhere that he can be a major league baseball player. He has come into spring training with a new swing, a new attitude and a determination to win a job on the Phillies roster, which according to Ruben Amaro would only happen if he had an outstanding spring training.
If he doesn't make the team out of spring training then the Phillies will have some decisions to make regarding the young outfielder.
Brown's maturation and growing process needs to come to an end now if the Phillies ever hope to get a quality player out of him.
Not Enough Major League at-Bats
When Jayson Werth left in free agency to join the Washington Nationals, it was Domonic Brown's chance to make a name for himself.
The job was always meant to be his, and it was the position he was groomed for while in the minors.
Unfortunately for Brown, the surprise emergence of 28-year-old John Mayberry and the determined effort of Ben Francisco left Brown having to earn the spot out of spring training.
Brown had already had a subpar major league debut, as his triple A numbers did not translate immediately into big league success.
Brown received less and less playing time, and the adjustment of not playing every day clearly affected his play and his confidence.
The biggest challenge for Brown and a big worry for the Phillies is that he won't be able to develop into a major league talent without more at-bats. The problem, however, is that the Phillies aren't exactly in a position to get him more at-bats.
With Ryan Howard out for at least the first few months, Placido Polanco and Chase Utley's injury history, Raul Ibanez gone to the Yankees and Jimmy Rollins' offense starting to decline, the Phillies can't afford to use any spot in that lineup to work through Brown's growing process.
He Is on His Last Option
Going hand in hand with the fact that Brown doesn't have enough major league at-bats is the fact that he is in his last year to get them.
As of the 2012 season, if Brown spends any time on the Phillies, he will be using up his last of three options.
That means that the Phillies will have a choice to make by either picking up his option and offering him a contract or by placing him on waivers.
The best bet for Brown is that he spends the entire season in triple-A giving him a chance to really develop his tools and raw power.
Eventually, the Phillies are going to have to use him or lose him, but the longer he spends in triple-A not being shuffled around between the minors and the majors, the better chance he will have of eventually getting the possibly available job in left field.
He Is a Defensive Liability
In case you were wondering, Brown didn't make this catch, and during his time with the Phillies, he didn't make many other catches, either.
There is an age-old saying that defense wins championships, and if the Phillies hope to win any more championships, they won't be able to do so with Brown on the roster.
Domonic Brown has some issues to work out with his swing, but that is not his biggest problem that is blocking him from the Phillies' roster.
The biggest obstacle is his very poor defense.
If Brown was hitting .300 with 30 HR, then maybe the Phillies wouldn't care as much about his lack of defensive ability, but as it stands he is hitting less than .270 and his defense isn't just bad, it poses a threat as a potential liability.
In two spring training games so far, Brown has already dropped a routine fly ball and took a bad route on a ball, allowing Yankees speedster Brett Gardner to record a triple. He dove too early, kind of like what happened in the picture above, and the ball bounced to the wall.
Brown really needs to improve his defense, and the only way he can do that is repetition in the minors and the majors.
His Swing Needs Improvement
Domonic Brown has one thing that is working for him—resilience.
No matter how many times he has been demoted, he is still striving to improve and work toward his dream of being an everyday major league player.
In order to make his dream come true, Brown came into spring training in 2012 with a new swing, and so far going 3-5 in his spring at-bats shows that something is starting to click.
Because Brown is so tall, his swing is so long that it was causing him to over-swing a lot last season and in 2010.
Brown was not really a situational hitter, either. Like many of the Phillies players, he swung for power all of the time, and as a result struck out a lot as he often swung over pitches.
Brown's new swing is a bit quicker and allows him to make more contact and get to more pitches. His swing is one area of his game that really needed improvement, and with no strikeouts in six plate appearances, his swing might be improving in a way that could help him get a September call-up.
Allows High-Pressure Situations to Get the Best of Him
In just two years of being exposed to the major league level, it has become obvious that Dom Brown has not yet adjusted to being in the spotlight.
As a top prospect, his debut was highly anticipated, and by going 2-4 with his first major league hit being a double, Brown didn't exactly ease the pressure that the media was placing on him.
After a successful debut, Brown was immediately thrust into the spotlight of a successful team only a few years removed from World Series glory.
Talk began of how he was the future and how he was joining a crop of established players as one of the first position players to make a rookie debut in quite some time.
After his debut, however, Brown suffered offensively, and his defensive struggles came to light.
He could never seem to figure out major league pitchers, and the holes in his swing led to many strikeouts. As games went by and Brown continued to struggle, the Philadelphia media turned on him and started to label him a possible bust.
Brown has yet to really taste major league success, and he hasn't been able to overcome all of the pressure and expectations placed on him.
In a city like Philadelphia, where the media and fans get on athletes if they aren't performing, Brown needs to be able to not let the pressure get the best of him if he wants to have a major league career here.
Needs to Improve on the Basepaths
Domonic Brown has pretty good speed but isn't an especially good base-stealer.
Maybe if Davy Lopes were still coaching first base in Philadelphia, Brown would be stealing more bases.
Regardless, he has a lot of potential for more value on the basepaths than he currently shows.
Brown could be a guy that steals 15-20 bases a season if he gets the proper training.
Unlike guys such as Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, who run on pure speed, Brown is going to have to learn to steal bases in the same fashion Chase Utley does.
Utley may not be the fastest guy, but he has an impeccable ability of knowing when to run, and that translates in his high base-stealing percentage.
I doubt that Brown will ever have the knowledge on the basepaths of guys like Chase Utley, but he still has the potential to at least become an average base-stealer.
If he improves on that aspect of his game, it can only benefit him in scoring more runs and becoming more of a presence in the running game.
His Confidence Isn't There
One of, if not the biggest obstacle blocking Brown's major league success is inside his head.
Currently, Brown is experiencing what many other major league players experience now and again—a lack of confidence in his abilities.
Because Brown has been shuffled around from the majors to the minors and has not really had a great amount of success at the major league level, Brown lacks some of the confidence that success brings with it.
With this lack of confidence, anytime something goes wrong, it seems like everything is going wrong.
Until Brown can really develop the confidence that major league players need, he will continue to struggle at the major league level.
It won't be easy for Brown to get that confidence, but a good performance in spring training and continued early-season success at triple-A might be the first step.
Right now the Phillies have to worry that he doesn't have what it takes to be a major league player, but the ball is totally in Brown's court to prove the team wrong.
He has the raw skill and tools—he just needs to finely develop them and then gain the confidence that he can in fact be a major league star.
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