There was a rumor about two weeks ago that the Phillies and Blue Jays were in discussion about a potential deal involving Jose Bautista and Domonic Brown. It never made sense. However, in the process of going through a discussion about the deal with some of my followers on the Baseball Guys’ Twitter account, there seemed to be a misunderstanding of just what the outlook is for Mr. Brown is in 2014. Hence, this report.
An elite level prospect, Brown once was favorably compared to Daryl Strawberry (makes sense as they are both tall, lanky lefty swingers). For the 2008-10 seasons, Brown was called the best prospect in the Phillies’ organization each year by Baseball America. That same entity also ranked him the 48th best prospect in baseball in 2008, the 15th best in 2009 and the 4th best in 2010. He was always supposed to be a star. Unfortunately he failed, miserably at every given chance.
2010: He hit .210 with a .612 OPS over 62 at-bats.
2011: He hit .245 with a .725 OPS over 184 at-bats.
2012: He hit .235 with a .712 OPS over 187 at-bats.
2010-12: Brown hit .236 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs an a .703 OPS over 433 at-bats. He just didn’t look ready (he miserably failed the eye-ball test). He also was seemingly injured every other week causing another level of frustration.
That all changed in 2013. Well, he was still hurt, he appeared in only 139 games, but otherwise he finally lived up to expectations even if he wasn’t anywhere near as good as most people seem to think he was.
Brown hit 27 homers. That’s great. However, he hit 12 of them in May. That means he hit 15 homers over the other 111 games he played including just six over his last 60 games. Moroever, the last home run he hit was on August 14th meaning he went 28 games to end the year without a big fly. Here’s another level of concern. If we remove a 10 game stretch in late May and early June Brown hit a total of 18 homers in 129 games. Really, if you remove that hot 10 days he was a barely a league average type of power hitter for a corner outfielder, especially one that doesn’t steal bases or hit for a high average. It should also be noted that he had a pretty high 19.3 percent HR/F rate, that mark was 19.2 if we combine his 2011 and 2012 efforts, so it’s far from certain that he will be able to produce homers at the same rate in 2014. That’s especially true when we note that his fly ball ratio of 35 percent last season was merely league average. He’s more likely to hit 20 homers than 30 in 2014.
As for the batting average his .272 mark was blah city. At the same time it was .027 points better than any of the marks he posted the firs three seasons of his career. Unfortunately he had the lowest walk rate and the highest K-rate in three years in 2013, and the result was that his 0.67 BB/K mark from 2011-12 dipped to 0.40 – a league average mark. It doesn’t make a ton of sense that a guy who do that and see his average jump nearly .030 points. One reason it went up was all the homers (they’re hits too). The second was a 22.8 percent line drive rate that he doesn’t figure to sustain. Even with all the success his .287 BABIP mark last season was a career best. He’s way more likely to hit .250 than .280 in 2014.
For all his talent and physical gifts, he just doesn’t get on base. As I’ve noted his batting average has never been good – it’s .252 for his big league career. It should also be pointed out that his OBP is also unimpressive at .320 for his career. In fact, the average NL performer since 2010 had a .259 batting average an a .325 OBP. Brown’s marks are .255 and .320. He hasn’t been league average in either mark. As a result of his spotty approach, Brown scored a total of 65 runs last season. Dude hit 27 homers folks. Hell, Chris Denorfia had 67 runs scored in 2013. For that matter, Denorfia hit .279 with a .337 OBP. That’s three significant categories in which Denorfia was better than Brown. Just saying.
For all his physical gifts, Brown just doesn’t steal bases. He swiped eight last season, you’ll take that of course, but with a total of 13 steals in 286 career games it should be obvious that 10 steals, and not 20, should be what you expect.
One final thought…
Brown’s also terrible against lefties for his career.
vs righties: .262/.330/.468
vs. lefties: .235/.291/.379
Add that all up and we have a talented, but flawed, 26 year old outfielder. It’s possible that Brown will improve in 2014 – he does have a solid skill set. At the same time he’s not a good bet in betting average. He’s not a good bet in OBP. As I noted above, he’s also not a good bet in the steals column. I also detailed how it’s a tough sell to think that his homer total will go up in 2014. Toss in on going health issues and his inability to handle left-handed pitching and you would be wise not to draft Brown in 2014 unless you expect a repeat of 2013. Even that might be a bit optimistic.
By Ray Flowers