The Phillies sent Brown to Triple-A on Friday, citing a need to improve his defense as the primary reason for the demotion. General manager Ruben Amaro said the team wants Brown to get work in left field and prefer he learn the position with the Triple-A club in Lehigh Valley rather than Philadelphia.
After two seasons splitting time between the majors and Triple-A, is there much more Brown can do to improve his standing with the Phillies? Or has he basically hit a ceiling within the organization and better off seeing if he can succeed elsewhere?
Plenty of other major league teams would surely find use for a player who's shown he can hit and get on base. No, Brown hasn't hit well in his two stints with the Phillies, compiling a .236 batting average and .636 OPS. But an .834 minor league OPS shows that the skills are there. Other clubs would be willing to accept that and overlook his defensive deficiencies.
There may have been no better opportunity for Brown to win a big league job with the Phillies than this year. Instead of Brown, the team is expected to rotate the likes of John Mayberry, Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre in left field. According to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, Pierre might get squeezed out in a roster crunch, along with another veteran outfielder, Scott Podsednik.
So maybe Brown was just the loser in an unfortunate numbers game. But it has to be a disappointment for a player once considered to be a top prospect not to beat out journeymen and role players for a starting position.
Brown certainly seemed to hit well enough to warrant a spot on the Phillies' Opening Day roster. He hit .300/.333/.650, far better than Mayberry (.224), Nix (.208) or Pierre (.257). But as MLB.com's Todd Zolecki points out, Brown only appeared in 20 games due to neck and thumb injuries. Maybe that wasn't enough of a sample to give the Phillies confidence in opting for him over a veteran player.
Or perhaps the team considers Brown such a butcher in left (or right) field that they just can't justify putting him out there, no matter how well he hits. Defense is certainly at a premium while the Phillies' lineup battles injuries and struggles to score runs. Until then, Mayberry and Nix may not provide spectacular outfield defense, but they'll make the necessary plays and maybe mix in a highlight reel catch or two.
But what if, as CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman asks, Brown never becomes a good—or decent—outfielder? What then? Do the Phillies just wince and put Brown out there, hoping he can get to most balls in the outfield? Or do they try to see if they can get anything in return for him, before his regard in the organization gets any lower?
If all else fails, maybe the Phillies can just completely throw up their hands and see if Brown can play second or third base.