After he performed drastically below his level of potential and expectations in the first few, brief stints of his major league career, there was a general feeling that the Philadelphia Phillies had nearly given up on Domonic Brown.
At one point during the offseason, it was reported that the Phillies and Chicago Cubs had discussed a swap of Brown and former All-Star Alfonso Soriano, which perhaps serves as the best illustration of how far the former may have fallen.
In spring training, however, Brown has put the brakes on that fall. He has been one of the Phillies' best and most consistent performers in camp, winning a job as an everyday corner outfielder and helping to restore the faith that may have been lost over the last few months.
Now the challenge is deciphering what Brown's torrid spring means for his future in the regular season. The Phillies are counting on him to take the next step and produce offensively, but can he?
Here are a few predictions for Brown moving into the 2013 campaign.
Prediction: At the end of the season, Domonic Brown's batting average will be in the .275-.290 range.
That is Brown's career batting average through seven minor league seasons, and while minor league numbers are a poor indicator of what a player will ultimately do at the major league level, it does prove one thing—he can hit for average.
Through his first three stints in the major league, that has been one of the big things missing from Brown's game, as he has yet to post a batting average north of the .250 mark.
Granted, Brown has never been given the opportunity to take to the field as an everyday player either. With consistent at-bats this spring, he has torn the cover off of the ball, not only hitting for power, but for average as well.
If you had to pick one area of Brown's game to definitely transition into the regular season, I would go with the high batting average. Consistent contact is what helped make him a great prospect and is an excellent building block towards becoming a great major league regular.
Prediction: Domonic Brown becomes one of the most patient hitters on the team.
I use the word "becomes" loosely in that prediction because there is a strong argument to be made that Brown is already the most patient hitter on the team. He didn't have enough at-bats to officially qualify, but Brown saw 3.89 pitches per plate appearance (per ESPN) last season, which would have placed him at the top of the list for the Phillies.
That's an approach that the Phillies need to have at the top of their lineup, with free swingers like Ben Revere, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young and Ryan Howard all expected to hit somewhere within the lineup's first six spots.
With Brown and Chase Utley in the lineup full-time, the Phillies will benefit from a more patient approach at the plate, but it is only a matter of time before Brown becomes the most patient hitter this club has to offer.
Prediction: Domonic Brown finishes the regular season within the Phillies' top three leaders in walks.
Building off of the last slide, a patient approach is not always synonymous with drawing a lot of walks, but for Brown, that patient approach, combined with a lack of discipline from the rest of this ball club, should easily put him at the top of the team leaderboard in walks, assuming that he plays a full season.
Per FanGraphs, the only two players on the club to finish with a higher walk rate than Brown last season (minimum 200 plate appearances) were Chase Utley and, surprisingly enough, Ty Wigginton. Brown's walk rate was 9.9 percent.
Given a full season, it would not be the least bit surprising to see Brown finish at the top of the club's leaderboard in walks. It's an even stronger bet that he finishes within the top three.
Prediction: Domonic Brown hits 20-25 home runs this season.
One of the things that made Brown a top prospect was his ability to use all five "tools" as a minor league player, including power. Over seven minor league seasons, he registered 189 extra base hits, including 58 home runs.
In his first few major league stints, that power was obviously lacking. He has hit just 12 home runs in 492 plate appearances over parts of three seasons.
If you're looking for a good indication that his power has returned, look no further than the simple fact that he has hit more home runs in spring training (seven) than he has in any single season at the major league level.
When Brown is healthy—and he is completely healthy heading into the regular season—he has the potential to be an above-average power threat. If he is in the lineup for a full season, I don't see much of a reason that he can't hit at least 20 home runs.
Prediction: Domonic Brown becomes one of the Phillies' top run producers, finishing among the club's top five in RBI.
Runs batted in is a trivial statistic. So much of how a player performs in relation to it depends on arbitrary situations and scenarios, like where a player is hitting in the lineup and how the rest of his club is performing.
The truth of the matter is that RBI should never be used as a barometer of how effective a player is.
But there will be certain situations this season when RBI will pop up as an interesting statistic for the Phillies, and if Brown is batting in the middle of the order for most of the regular season, he could become one of the team's biggest run producers.
Brown has the combination of contact and power that could help him collect a ton of RBI, but that will also depend on how players like Ben Revere, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard set the table at the top of the order.
In a full, healthy season for the Phillies as a whole, Brown should easily finish within the club's top five leaders in RBI.
Prediction: Domonic Brown becomes a better-than-average defender.
Baseball is a sport where success and failure is largely a state of mind, so when you struggle in one area of the game, all areas of your game tend to suffer. That seems to have been the case for Brown through most of his major league career, especially in the outfield.
Moving forward, Brown has the tools to be an average defender, at the very least. With good range, speed and a strong arm, a bit of comfort in the outfield could go a long way in helping him to become a defender who could realistically be considered better than average.
Through Brown's torrid spring, the one thing that you haven't heard people talk about his defense, and that's because he has played well in right field throughout camp.
He can be a solid defender moving forward.
Prediction: Domonic Brown receives serious All-Star consideration, but ultimately falls short.
The hope for every selection on draft day is that you are uncovering the next perennial All-Star, but Brown has all of the tools to make that dream a reality. The question has become whether or not he can put it all together at the major league level.
I believe that he can. Brown has a unique blend of contact and power that, along with a slight adjustment to his batting stance this spring, has him performing like an early breakout candidate. He also has the potential to play solid defense.
The early prediction here is that Brown almost becomes an All-Star in 2013. As a whole, he is going to have a good season. If this early spring production carries over into the regular season's first half, he'll receive some serious consideration for the All-Star Game, but ultimately, I think he'll fall just short.