Anyone who’s followed baseball this spring knows the national sports media has been abuzz with talk about a “once in a lifetime” talent…
Who is he? Well, he’s a lefty-hitting, potential five-tool right fielder who happens to play for a club in the National League East.
OK, of course we’re talking about the Atlanta Braves’ Jason Heyward. He’s a phenomenal talent, and at age 20, appears to truly be in a class all by himself. He's absolutely sensational and the attention is well deserved. But largely unreported outside the Delaware Valley is the fact that the Phillies have a promising 22-year-old Double-A prospect who doesn’t seem too far behind.
His name? Domonic Brown. He hasn’t been given an oh so clever nickname yet, like, “The J Hey Kid.” But he gives Phillie fans a reason to check out the Reading Phils online box score each morning.
Brown is a lanky 6’5’’, 200-pound kid from Georgia, who the Phillies expect to be roaming right field at Citizens Bank Park in the years to come.
The Phillies selected Brown in the 20th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. Ironically, pitcher Kyle Drabek was selected 18th overall by the Phils that same year. In 2009, Brown and Drabek were undisputedly considered the Phillies top-two minor-league prospects. But in the end, the Phillies chose to keep Brown, while shipping Drabek to Toronto in the Roy Halladay deal this past December.
Brown had an extremely impressive 2010 Spring Training with the big club before being sent down. He was 10-for-24 (.417 AVG), with 2 homers and 8 RBI, while recording three outfield assists.
Both Brown’s dingers came the day before his demotion on March 17. His first crank came against Detroit Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander, while his second came versus major-league lefty reliever Phil Coke.
This spring, Baseball America reported that Brown had “shown good speed for a big man and demonstrated a work-ethic that has impressed his veteran teammates.”
The Philadelphia media also seemed to make note of his poise, so it sounds like Brown already has more maturity than Jose Reyes can hope to have at age 75.
"All these guys brought me under their wing,” Brown told Philly.com last month, when asked about his communication with some of the Phillies’ veterans and coaching staff. “It's a major confidence booster for myself and is really teaching me the hard-work part of it also.”
Ryan Howard was one Phillie who felt Brown was making the most of his opportunity in his very first big-league Grapefruit League camp.
"He's gone about it the right way," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "He's come up and he's learning, and that's the biggest thing.”
In 2009, Brown hit .303 in 66 games with Single-A Clearwater before being promoted to Double-A Reading, where he batted .279 in 37 contests. He totaled 7 triples, 14 homers, and 23 steals between the two leagues.
Brown has begun 2010 at Double-A Reading. Batting in the No. 3 spot in the order, Brown is 5-for-19 with 3 RBI and 6 strikeouts since the season began last Thursday.
Domonic Brown isn’t ready for the big leagues yet, but his time is coming. And soon.
The Phillies personnel knows that, and is optimistic that Brown can slide into the Phillies’ big-league starting outfield when a vacancy arises…whether that’s at the start of 2011 should Jayson Werth search for work elsewhere, or after 2012 when Raul Ibanez’s contract expires.
He’s two years older than the Braves Jason Heyward. But Brown’s certainly not at the Heyward’s level…yet.
The national media’s prospect promotional machine certainly knows Heyward is a special talent. As you know, the Braves’ 20-year-old star is drawing daily comparisons to a fistful of the greatest players in the history of baseball.
Griffey Jr.…Aaron…Mays…you know the drill.
Actually, based on his physique, Heyward looks more like Dallas Cowboys star linebacker Demarcus Ware than any of those all-time greats.
Heyward might hit a couple of home runs onto I-76 when Atlanta visits Citizens Bank Park next month. And he’ll probably club a few more to the top of the Comcast Center when the Braves return to Philly in July.
But the Phillies know their own lefty-hitting potential five-tool right fielder has a chance to be a pretty damn good major leaguer as well.