ANAHEIM, California _ It is quite easy to see that Domonic Brown has not gotten caught up in the hype of being considered the top prospect in the minor leagues now that a number of promising rookies have made their major-league debuts this season. The outfielder in the Phillies‘ system is an outgoing 23-year-old with a friendly nature, easy smile, and not the slight hint of arrogance. And when it is mentioned that Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein and others have anointed him as the new chart-topper on the prospects hit list, Brown laughs it off.
“Really, the only thing being called a prospect does is give you a chance to participate in a special event like this,” Brown said Sunday before an aborted stint for the United States in the All-Star Futures Game at Angels Stadium. Brown felt tightness in his right hamstring while running the bases in the first inning, and was lifted for a pinch-runner as a precaution in the a 9-1 US victory over the World.
“Until you get to the major leagues and prove what you can do, being a prospect really doesn’t mean anything. It’s nice that people think highly of my ability but it doesn’t change me in any way. Right now, I’m a guy in the minor leagues who is working on trying to become a better player.”
Brown has certainly been doing good work this season. He hit .326/.391/.608 with 15 home runs in 271 plate appearances with Double-A Reading to start the year then has batted .364/.390/.636 in 59 plate appearances since a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. His translated TAv was .250 in the Eastern League and is .314 in the International League.
The 22-year-old left-handed hitter is certainly making a case that he has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. That has led to speculation that the Phillies would be willing to part with right fielder Jayson Werth, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, in a trade for a frontline starting pitcher because Brown would be ready to step into the lineup.
“You know the contract situations and you hear the trade rumors,” Brown said. “It’s hard to miss that kind of stuff. But I have no idea what’s going to happen. All I know is that when Ruben and those guys think they’re ready then I’ll be in the big leagues. They’ll let me know.”
Granted, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will have the final say on a promotion for Brown. However, after spending three months terrorizing pitchers at the upper levels of the minors, does Brown think he is ready? He smiles when asked the question.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Brown said. “I’ve never played in the big leagues, so I can’t really answer that question. I can speculate all I want and so can everyone else, but I don’t think anyone can consider me ready until the Phillies think I’m ready and call me up.”
The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder is considered a true five-tool prospect as he hits for power and average to go along with an above-average throwing arm, defensive ability and speed. The Phillies’ first-round draft pick in 2006 from Redan (Ga.) High School, the alma mater of Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, also draws high marks for his work ethic.
About the only negative thing about Brown all season is that his injury Sunday kept him from showing his vast array of skills to a national television audience. However, he did showcase his speed by beating out an infield single in the first but then was forced to leave the game later in the inning after advancing from second base to third base on a wild pitch.
“I’m fine,” Brown said after the game. “I wanted to stay in the game but they wouldn’t let me. It was no big deal.”
Angels catching prospect Hank Conger was the game’s Most Valuable Player as his three-run home run in the fifth inning off the Blue Jays‘ Henderson Alvarez gave the US a 5-1 lead. The switch-hitting Conger, 22, is hitting .279/.378/.413 with five home runs and a translated .237 TAv in 286 plate appearances for Triple-A Salt Lake.
“That was a big thrill,” Conger said of the home run. “To hear the crowd cheering like that, especially in the ballpark that I hope I call home for many years, was really special. It was a very exciting moment, something I’ll never forget.”
There was undoubtedly some hometown influence in Conger winning the MVP as designated hitter Eric Hosmer went 4-for-5 with a double and two RBI for the United States. It was the continuation of a breakout season for the Royals‘ first-round draft pick in 2008 as the 20-year-old is hitting .349/.424/.540 with seven homers and a translated .227 TAv in 363 plate appearances for High-A Wilmington in the Carolina League.
Another Angels prospect, Mike Trout, who pinch-ran for Brown and played the final eight innings in center field, had two hits, including a double. A first-round pick last year, the 18-year-old is hitting .362/.454/.526 with six homers and a .176 translated TAv in 368 plate appearances for Low-A Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League.
Rays prospect Jeremy Hellickson started for the US and pitched two innings for the win, though he allowed the World’s lone run. Simon Castro of the Padres‘ organization was the loser as he gave up two runs in one inning.
If nothing else, Brown’s injury gave him a chance to get a head start on his All-Star break. Brown is scheduled to fly back to Allentown, home of those Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, today and will spend all day Tuesday unpacking his belongings at his new apartment. He has been living out of a suitcase since being promoted from Reading. At the rate he is progressing, it seems he will be living in yet another eastern Pennsylvania city before season’s end-Philadelphia.
“That’s everybody’s dream, to get to the big leagues,” Brown said. “I’m not thinking about it now. I’m just concentrating on what I need to do to get better each day. Whenever the Phillies call, though, I’ll answer the phone.”