Into the fire: Domonic Brown gets promoted

It’s not news to anyone following the NL East that the Phillies have been plagued with injuries this season. The latest, a strained oblique suffered by CF Shane Victorino, could significantly complicate Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr’s trade deadline plans. Amaro had previously been shopping star OF Jayson Werth with the hopes of acquiring a quality starting pitcher and permanently ousting Kyle Kendrick from the rotation. This strategy was made possible because the Phillies possessed an ace in the hole.

Domonic Brown* (.327/.391/.589, 20 HR, 17 SB, 7 CS, 37 BB, 74K, 389 PA) – Brown has been called the best prospect remaining in the minors by multiple prospect watchers. Drafted in 2006 and signed out of a commitment to the University of Miami to play wide receiver, Brown entered the system as the typical Phillies prospect, full of tools but lacking polish. After a rough initial trial in rookie ball, he settled in and has improved consistently each season. Prior to 2010, Baseball America ranked Brown the 15th best major league prospect and Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked him 24th. Scouts raved about Dom’s athletic ability and bat control, but were beginning to wonder if his power would ever develop. Goldstein said as much in his pre-season review of the Phillies system.

While Brown’s power has improved each year, he hit just three homers in 147 Double-A at-bats. Many scouts feel that the 30+ home-run projection some put on him is far too strong, based on a swing that is on more of a single plane than one that provides loft and backspin

Brown has responded by popping 20 homeruns in 389 plate appearances split between the Eastern (AA) and International (AAA) Leagues, showcasing that 30+ homerun potential that some scouts thought would never materialize.

I was at this point in the article when the Phillies made things official by placing Shane Victorino on the DL and calling up Domonic Brown. According to an anonymous Phillies batboy, Brown will be batting 6th tonight between Werth and Carlos Ruiz. If he jumps out to a fast start, we might see him batting 2nd, 3rd, or 5th in the near future.

As always, it’s tough to get a handle on what we should expect from Brown right now. As a left handed hitter in a very left handed lineup, he’s certain to see his share of left-handed specialists. Thankfully for the Phillies, Brown hasn’t shown much in way of a platoon split during his farm travels. He has both the arm and superior range necessary to make him a strong defender in RF or a palatable substitute in CF. Scouts do indicate that he is prone to circuitous routes at times.

Because his potential for power was only just realized in 2010, the few projection systems that have rated him are pessimistic about his power. Oliver expects a league average .334 wOBA. His Major League Equivalent line of .277/.333/.478 (.348 wOBA) more closely reflects my expectations. Assuming he gets sufficient time over the balance of 2010, I suspect we’ll see good contact skills and decent power output mixed with occasionally questionable plate discipline.

Despite Victorino’s injury, Phillies fans have a lot to be excited about tonight. Roy Halladay takes the hill opposed by Edwin Jackson in the hopes of extending a six game winning streak. That match-up has now been eclipsed because the system’s most highly touted prospect since Chase Utley is getting the starting nod in RF. More intrigue may lay ahead for the Phillies as the deadline approaches…

*About a year ago, Dom let it be known that media and analysts were misspelling his name. They were using the more popular Dominic rather than the correct Domonic. I thought this was an interesting tidbit since the Fangraphs page still uses the wrong spelling (I’m sure there will be more confusion in the future). Anyone have an express line to David Appelman?

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