The Philadelphia Phillies were expecting a big season from 23-year-old rookie outfielder Dominic Brown, even when he went down with a wrist injury in spring training. While fans might complain about the average display of power (four home runs) and underwhelming slash line (.208/.292/.377), Brown has made some significant improvements that will benefit him for the rest of this season and his career.
One of Brown's significant problems he faced during his minor league career and his brief stint with the Phillies last season was his strikeout rate. He struck out at a 19.5 percent rate in the minors, and looked overmatched last season against major league pitching with a whopping 38.7 percent strikeout rate.
In his 106 at-bats this season, he has struck out only 15 times, which is a much improved 14 percent strikeout rate. Brown has lowered his swinging strike percentage from 13.5 percent to 7.7 percent, and has increased his contact rate from 72.2 to 82.4 percent.
While he has increased his contact rate on pitches within the strike-zone (83.8 to 90.2 percent), one of his most important progressions has come in terms of plate discipline. His walk rate increased from 7.1 to 10.8 percent, and has dramatically corrected his contact rate on pitches outside of the strike zone from 50 to 70.7 percent.
Brown's .208 batting average has been heavily influenced by a .205 BABIP, which indicates that he has been quite unlucky in his 120 plate appearances this season even with a low 13 percent line drive rate. His power has taken a slight hit (his HR/FB ratio has dropped to 10.8 percent), but he is hitting fly-balls with more regularity (36.2 to 40.2 percent).
The line drive rate and home runs will improve as Brown progresses this season, and his early 2011 numbers show improvements that will benefit his game in the long term. Scouts were worried about his strikeout ability and not his power. Expect Brown to have a .260/.340/.435 line by the end of the season, and 13 to 15 home runs. He is a good buy low candidate for deep leagues in fantasy.