This is a story of unfulfilled promise. Going into the season as the No. 4 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, and coming off a season where he posted a .980 OPS between AA and AAA, Domonic Brown seemed poised to slide seamlessly into the right field void left by Jayson Werth. The Phillies’ best offensive prospect since Ryan Howard, Brown looked set to do in the majors what he’d done at every level of minor league baseball: take his trebuchet launch of a swing and his howitzer throwing arm and bring those weapons to bear for no purpose other than to blast the opposition into oblivion.
Then the Domonator broke the hamate bone in his right hand on March 5, and everything seemed to go downhill from there. Brown didn’t get into the major league lineup until May 21. What’s worse, the broken hamate bone saps strength in the hand, and it usually takes a hitter months to recover his full power stroke. Brown, for his part, wasn’t particularly good, dialing in at exactly replacement level according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, combining a .322 wOBA (not awful, but not exactly stellar for a corner outfielder) with pretty dreadful outfield defense, which, after 12 seasons of Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez in left field, has apparently started to bother Phillies fans all of a sudden.
But the wheels came off in the later innings of a 4-1 loss to Oakland on June 25. Brown was thrown out to end the sixth inning when he didn’t run hard to first on a ground ball, then capped off the 0-for-4 night with the game-ending double play. Brown was booed by the fans, who turned on the onetime crown prince and painted him, overnight, as a wastrel. Brown continued to play, more or less, every day until the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence at the trade deadline. From then on, however, Brown was sent back to AAA, where he posted a .760 OPS before being recalled to the team’s expanded roster in September, where he found himself nailed to the bench, appearing twice, registering one at-bat and never playing the field. The Phillies then left Brown off their playoff roster, instead taking Ross Gload and Michael Martinez to St. Louis. Brandon Moss was chosen over Brown as a potential injury alternate, and the Phillies’ top prospect was sent home for good.
GRADE: 4.5/10 – I’m starting to get tired of arguing for more playing time for Brown, so let’s stick to what we know for now: despite the injury and the hustle ugliness that plagued him, Domonic Brown was at least marginally better than Ben Francisco or Raul Ibanez in 2011. That’s a fact, empirically proved. And because the idea of Brown rotting in AAA or on the bench for another year is unspeakably maddening, let’s focus on the positives: he’s still only 24, and he can’t possibly be any more unlucky going forward than he was in 2011. The worst is almost certainly over.