Just last season, Domonic Brown was one of the top rated prospects in all of baseball. An elite future seemed imminent, and the only question was when Brown would be given an opportunity to get it started.
Now, it seems like many fans and analysts would prefer to see the Brown era ended before it's even begun.
The Brown critics have some legitimate points and concerns over the outfielder's future. They say he struggled in his short time in the Major League's last season and, even more damningly, had a tough time in the minors after he was sent down.
They say he looks lost in the field, that he's a classic "toolsy" project player who just can't seem to put it all together and that he's made of glass and might not be able to stay on the field.
The Dom haters might be right, and they might be wrong. He could be a bust that'll never live up to his potential, and he could be the young explosive piece the Philadelphia Phillies offense needs.
The thing is, we'll never know (and, more importantly, neither will the Phillies) what exactly Brown is if we never see him play.
As I briefly got into in my comments on my article handicapping the Phils' battle for the LF spot, I feel like it's similar to the Philadelphia 76ers recently deciding to finally start Even Turner—another prospect facing a lot of expectations who many had started to write off as a bust. At some point, you just have to let him loose and see what he has.
There's only so much you can tell about a player when he is playing in AAA. If the goal is to eventually have Brown hit and field at the Major League level, then we should care about how he hits against Major League pitchers and fields balls hit by Major League batters.
Besides, Brown's struggles during his return to the minor league's last season need not be attributed to a lack of effort or ability of having "it."
For one thing, Brown may have needed more time to fully recover from breaking his Hamate bone last spring—an injury which can sap a player's power and make hitting uncomfortable for a while. Dom likely also struggled due to a lack of confidence and security in his spot within the organization.
The front office showing very little confidence in Brown is really hurting his development in my opinion, as is the lack of a guaranteed opportunity. Dom would probably be pressing a lot less if Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel stood firmly behind him and said that he'd have a reasonable opportunity at the beginning of the year to show that he's worthy of starting for the Phils.
So maybe Brown really isn't ever going to amount to anything worthwhile at the Major League level. Maybe he just isn't the answer, and is a victim of being too hyped too early. But we'll never know that for sure if we never see him play.
There's still a good chance Dom can bring the youth and offense he was supposed to into the Phillies lineup, and besides, do the Phillies other left field options really excite you that much?
The Phillies just have to let him play, and if he doesn't have it at least they can cut their losses earlier and try and get something in a trade while he's young rather than let him play in AAA until he's 27.