Much is being made of the Philadelphia Phillies' desire to trade left fielder Domonic Brown, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan. A line in the sand has been drawn, and there are those who feel as if Brown is the keystone for the Phillies' future while others are screaming sell, sell, sell!
Independent of where one stands on this issue, the fact remains that Brown burst out of a disappointing start to his career to have a breakout, All-Star season in 2013. In 540 at-bats, Brown smashed 27 home runs and drove in 83 runs.
His dinger tally put him alongside the likes of Mike Trout, Robinson Cano and Justin Upton for 17th most in Major League Baseball. He finished 34th in the big leagues, alongside Victor Martinez, with his 83 RBI. While Brown's .272 AVG is nothing to write home about, it did place him at second among the Phillies' qualifying hitters.
On the surface, Brown's numbers don't look all that bad. Sure, nearly half (12) of Brown's HR total came in the month of May and they all landed in right field, but that doesn't necessarily negate his production for the Phillies.
What does negate his production is when we look at what he did (or didn't do) beyond the box score.
Among qualifying left fielders, Brown finished 2013 with the third-worst Wins Above Replacement (WAR). His 1.6 WAR ranked ahead of only Eric Young and Chris Carter. It compared to that of Daniel Nava (1.8) and Michael Brantley (1.6).
Brown's on-base percentage (OBP) ranked 11th among the same group of qualifying left fielders. A walk rate of just 7.2 percent can be attributed to this. Walking in just about seven percent of his at-bats, Brown was slightly better than just four other qualifying left fielders. The worst was Starling Marte who tallied a 4.4 percent walk rate.
To make matters worse, Brown's Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) was second worst among this group. With a .287 BABIP, Brown finished 32 percentage points less than Chris Denorfia.
In terms of Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), the Phillies' lefty slugger finished with 123. Since the MLB average is 100, Brown finished slightly above average in this regard but 20 fewer than Matt Holliday and five fewer than Nava. Brown was closer to Marte in this measurement.
Finally, Brown's defensive WAR comes in at minus-15.9. Only four other left fielders come in worse, including Upton. However, there is a 26-defensive WAR difference between Brown and Gregor Blanco. Needless to say, Brown has his issues in left field.
The finer details to Brown's production show us that he compares more favorably to the likes of Nava, Carter, Young and Marte than he does Holliday or Upton.
With such a small sample though, some outliers do emerge. Brown does look more favorably than Alex Gordon is some measurements. He even bests Yoenis Cespedes in others. However, it is his future projections that look more alarming.
In just his first full season of MLB play, Brown looks to have already reached his ceiling. Projections for Brown's traditional statistics look weaker than what he accumulated this past season. In addition to his decline, the descent elsewhere is likely the reason for the Phillies shopping him.
The upside to Brown is that he is under team control. This will make a deal for him look more likely but at the same time, the Phillies should not expect a top-of-the-farm pitching prospect in return. Brown's statistical anomalies should be corrected as he gains more experience as an everyday piece of the lineup, be it in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
No one should fault Ruben Amaro Jr. for trying to sell Brown high. All indications point to Brown hitting his peak in 2013. If this is the case, the descent will be a long one for the 26-year-old. The fact that Brown may not be as good as Chris Young, a comparable player, was in 2007 through 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks is a telling sign.
Young has reached the point where he will likely be piggy-backing one-year deals throughout the next couple of years. What will Brown end up accomplishing production-wise? For whichever team he plays moving forward, production similar to Young's aforementioned four-year span is the most desirable, even if it won't necessarily be pretty.
The question for those looking at Brown as a possible piece in a trade with the Phillies is: What can Brown do for you?
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