The Philadelphia Phillies once considered Domonic Brown to be untouchable, but now he may be unwanted. Brown's struggles on the field have put him in a position where he might not even have a spot on the Phillies' expanded roster.
If you’re unfamiliar with the expanded roster rules, then here’s a quick rundown for you: Teams are comprised of a 40-man roster and for the majority of the season—from April to August. Teams can only use 25 of those players to put together their lineup. But when September rolls around, teams are free to use their full 40-man roster during games.
This is when you typically see teams reward some of their top prospects with Major League playing time. So, when Domonic Brown was sent down to triple-A Lehigh Valley after the Hunter Pence trade, most people assumed that when September rolled around Brown would be called back up almost immediately.
Well, in honor of college football starting this week, let me hit you with a little Lee Corso and say, “Not so fast my friend!”
The first thing holding back any September call-ups is the fact that the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have a week left in their season and are right in the middle of a playoff race. This might seem stupid in the sense that minor-league teams are there to facilitate the needs of major league teams, but in this case I get it.
The Phillies have a comfortable lead in the NL East, and this being the IronPigs' fourth year of existence, it is the first time they’ve even had a winning season. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently interviewed Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr, and when asked about any minor league call-ups that the team might make, Amaro replied, “We’ll let them play out the season there and see how it goes—unless we have any urgent needs, which right now I don’t think we do.”
If you were wondering about the specifics of the situation, the IronPigs have four games left in their season and are two games back in their division, while also being tied with the Braves' triple-A squad in the wild-card race.
But even when that situation plays itself out, the question will still remain: has Brown’s play on the field earned him a spot on the roster? There is no question that Brown, who was Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect in 2010, has all the physical tools to be able to contribute something to this team. The problem is that, ever since being sent down to Lehigh Valley, Brown has struggled mightily, hitting only .217 in August.
Things really took a turn for the worse on Monday when the IronPigs were playing a doubleheader at home. Brown didn’t have a single hit in six at-bats and struck out four times. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he also made several mistakes in the field, misjudging several fly balls and flat out dropping a routine pop up.
It’s one thing to see a player struggle with a position change, even one as seemingly simple as switching from right field to left field. But Brown’s struggles have been compounded with what appears to be a lack of hustle and competitiveness, which actually resulted in him being booed in recent games.
The one saving grace for Dom Brown is the fact that he’s got the skipper on his side. As reported by Matt Gelb, earlier this week when asked about Brown, Charlie Manuel said, “I would definitely recommend him coming back. To us, he’s still a big prospect. We look at him as a guy who has a chance to play for us. There’s no sense in why we shouldn’t bring him back.”
Though, later that same day, Amaro said, “I think he kind of needs to get away,” insinuating that it might be best to send Brown home once the triple-A season ends so he can clear his mind.
While Amaro might be higher up on the chain of command, I think he’ll likely trust Manuel to decide who he wants on his bench. Even with his struggles in the field and at the plate, Brown would be one of the fastest guys on the bench and could help in pinch-running situations. Plus, with the whole 33 games in 31 days schedule, I’m sure Manuel can get Brown a few at-bats to try to break out of his slump and regain a little of his confidence.
In the end, I think bringing back Domonic Brown is absolutely the right move. The risk is minimal and the reward could be substantial. Besides, if he’s not inspired to play better and give his maximum effort while being surrounded by this group of Phillies, then maybe he’s doomed to be one of those athletically gifted players who just can’t put it together on the field.
As a Phillies fan, I’m hoping that the kid figures it out, because he’s got the kind of skills that could really come in handy in a pinch—hit that is.