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February 22, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Phillies Give Astros a Brownout

by Daniel Rathman

Second-year general manager Jeff Luhnow has taken a no-stones-unturned approach to rebuilding the Astros, so it should come as no surprise that an outfielder not long ago considered one of the top 25 prospects in the game would pique his interest. Unfortunately, his attempt to buy low on Domonic Brown appears to have been rebuffed.

Astros attempted to acquire Domonic Brown
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted on Thursday that Brown’s name “came up in trade talks” earlier this offseason between Luhnow and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who had a strong working relationship with Luhnow’s predecessor, Ed Wade. Heyman did not say whether the discussions centered on a deal in which Brown would have been the headliner or if the Astros asked about the 25-year-old in return for another player, but in either case, the talks were moot.

Our own Hudson Belinsky chronicled Brown’s recent travails, which took him from comparisons to Darryl Strawberry to doubts about his ability to merit an everyday role, in last week’s Prospect Profile column. When asked about Brown’s future with the Phillies, one scout told Belinsky, “If he isn’t given a chance to be the guy [this year], they really have given up on him.” If that is true, then Heyman’s report indicates a willingness by Amaro to give Brown a legitimate opportunity, and perhaps in more than just the long-straw platoon role for which Jason Martinez’s depth chart has him slated.

After importing Ben Revere from the Twins to be their everyday center fielder and signing former Tiger Delmon Young to play right, the Phillies effectively have six outfielders battling for five spots. I included the qualifier in the previous sentence because Young, who is recovering from off-season ankle surgery, probably will not be ready on Opening Day. That means that both corner spots are there for the taking this spring, but it also means that one of the April 1 starters could be on thin ice shortly thereafter.

For now, Brown will see the lion’s share of work in right field, while minor-league standout Darin Ruf attempts to prove his doubters wrong in left. Manager Charlie Manuel will have the option of platooning either or both of his projected starters— with the right-handed-hitting John Mayberry and the lefty-swinging Laynce Nix available off the bench—but if the Phillies are committed to a fair evaluation of Brown as a major-league regular, then he is likely to at least be given a chance to stay in the lineup against southpaws. Ender Inciarte, a Rule 5 selection who played in High-A for the Diamondbacks last year, is unlikely to stick around for the entire season.

And thus, teams, like the Astros, that are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to provide Brown with a fresh start will need to wait a little longer. Heyman’s report does reaffirm one thing, though: If Brown’s availability changes midyear, expect Luhnow to be among the first to dial Amaro’s number.

Giancarlo Stanton “doing well” after batting-practice scare
As if Marlins fans needed a serious injury to add to the insult supplied by the ballpark mortgage, Stanton was drilled in the head by a pitch from the team’s top prospect, Jose Fernandez, on Wednesday. Fortunately, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the slugging right fielder has not encountered any concussion symptoms, and he expects to be in the lineup for the team’s Grapefruit League opener on Saturday. 

The 23-year-old Stanton smacked 37 home runs in just 123 games last season—despite managing only one big fly in 21 April contests—including 18 in 43 games after the All-Star break. PECOTA has tabbed the 23-year-old right fielder for 39 homers over 634 plate appearances in 2013, which, when coupled with Stanton’s excellent defense, would put him on track for a second consecutive five-plus-win campaign. Toning down a bloated strikeout rate, which spiked to 35 percent during his second-half power surge, will be the next challenge for Stanton, who will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next winter.

Cardinals may be without Rafael Furcal on Opening Day
Meanwhile, the Redbirds, who share the Roger Dean Stadium facilities in Jupiter with the Marlins, received ominous news. Derrick Goold, who covers the Cardinals for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported on Thursday that Furcal is still suffering from the aftereffects of an elbow injury that he rehabbed in lieu of undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. The 35-year-old Furcal appeared in 121 games for the Cardinals in 2012, but gave way to Pete Kozma down the stretch and in the postseason. He has not logged a 150-game campaign since 2009.

If Furcal is unable to take the field on Opening Day, second-year manager Mike Matheny could turn back to Kozma, who performed surprisingly well in September, amassing a .333/.383/.569 triple-slash line over 82 plate appearances, before falling into a 9-for-42 slump with 14 strikeouts under the postseason spotlight. Ronny Cedeno, who signed a one-year, $1.15 million pact with the Cardinals on last month, offers Matheny a veteran alternative. Ryan Jackson—the team’s 11th-ranked prospect entering last season—could fit in a platoon role, if general manager John Mozeliak can find a left-handed hitter to take on the majority of the at-bats until Furcal is ready to resume everyday duties.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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