August 1, 2012
The situation: With the Phillies trading both Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino on Tuesday, the club needed outfielders. That means another chance for Domonic Brown, who was once the organization's top prospect and among the top outfield prospects in the game.
Background: A 20th-round pick in 2006, Brown signed for a well-over-slot bonus of $200,000 to spurn a college career as both an outfielder and wide receiver, and his tools immediately excited scouts. It took time for that athleticism to blossom into athletic ability, but a .299/.377/.504 season in 2009 got the hype train rolling, and after hitting .327/.391/.589 in 2010 on two upper-level squads, he was seen as one of the top prospects in the game and a future All-Star.
Unfortunately, that has been the peak of his career to date. He spent the final part of the 2010 season in the big leagues but received just 70 big league plate appearances in 35 games and struggled to adjust to inconsistent playing time. An alteration to his swing led to a disastrous showing in spring training 2011, and a broken hamate bone hampered him the remainder of the season, and quite frankly, he's just never been the same. Dealing with a nagging knee problem this year, Brown arrives in the majors after posting a solid yet unspectacular slash line of .286/.335/.432 at Triple-A, though it's worth noting he did hit .362 in July.
What he can do: Brown is still just 24 years old, and his tools remain enormous. He's a prototypical big, athletic outfielder with plus raw power and above-average speed, and scouts dreamed of him producing a string of 30-homer/30-steal seasons in the majors once he got settled. But he has lost a step over the past two seasons. Despite his left-handedness, he has no discernible platoon issues. He also has a solid arm, but his reads and routs in the outfield are subpar, which limits him to a corner spot.
Immediate big league future: Brown has fallen into the doghouse in Philadelphia, and was seen by many other teams as an excellent change-of-scenery candidate. This is a fantastic chance for him to find success in Philadelphia, but it also could be his last chance.
Long-term: Who knows? Brown could end up being a key to somebody's fantasy championship this year, or a complete waste of free-agent dollars. Consider him for risk-takers only.