Three years ago, Domonic Brown wasn’t really ready. Sure, there was plenty of hype -- he was tagged “a superstar in the making” -- but he was only 23 and had less than 300 ABs at Class AAA.
Nonetheless fans and pundits were looking at a 22 home run season split between AA-AAA and 62 big league at bats. It didn’t matter that he was over-matched in his big league at bats, hitting just .210 in them. Everyone saw the .327 average split between AA and AAA.
So 2011 was supposed to be his breakout year. It failed to happen though he did manage five home runs and a .245 batting average against Major League hurlers. It was hardly impressive.
Fans, not to mention scouts, began to have a few doubts. Even at the minor league level the power that had so intrigued everyone had seemed to vanish. Scarily for Brown’s career, 2012 looked eerily similar.
The scouts has stopped using the word “superstar.” The word that were being bandied about was “marginal” and “bench player.” Brown looked a lot more like the guy who was taken in the 20th round (607th overall), and the expectations had begun to match. But the Phillies didn’t have a lot of depth in the outfield, and when the season opened in 2013 Delmon Young was going to be on the DL. So Brown would split time with John Mayberry Jr., at least until Young returned.
But in the interim, Brown had grown up, filled out and most importantly began to comprehend hitting Major League pitching. The results have put even those 22 home runs of 2010 to shame. Brown has been the best of the Phillies on the field day in and day out in 2013.
This isn’t any longer Ryan Howard’s team or Chase Utley’s team or Doc Halladay’s team. This is Domonic Brown’s team. No, he’s not the clubhouse leader or the respected veteran. But he’s just the driving force for the team offensively, win or lose.
No one is going to confuse him with Mike Trout, as a player who can transform a team by himself, but he offers more power than Trout, good speed (which so far he hasn’t really used), and his average is slowly getting better -- currently into the low .280s.
He is not a player without flaws. He strikes out far more than he walks, almost at a 4:1 ratio so far this year. But that’s out of sync with his minor league numbers where the numbers generally were somewhere between 2:1 and 1:1, but his current ratio might be more of what we can expect to see going forward.
That’s because Brown has become what the Phillies really needed. A masher who can change a game with a single uppercut swing of the bat. That’s transformed him from what he was in the minors, drastically changing his game, lowering his on-base percentage and raising his strikeout rate since he swings for the fences instead of just making contact.
And that could mean that Brown could even get better. If he can integrate his two skill sets, something more than possible in a guy who is just 25 and hasn’t yet hit his prime, he could become a complete player. One who hits for average, has a good OBP, strikes out a lot less often and still retains that middle of the order power. If so he can re-earn that name of “superstar,” this time without the word “potential” put in front of it.
Even if he gets there, he can’t carry the Phillies by himself. Some wholesale changes are in the offing and we’ll soon see the best of the farm system showing up. Throw in some new free agents paid for with money that will come in from a new TV deal following the 2015 season -- just when Brown should reach his prime -- and he could be the cornerstone of the next great Phillies team.