The Philadelphia Phillies' outfield is in a state of flux. Because no player made a solid claim on any spot, what offseason choices will be made about this portion of the team?
Starting with Brown
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has a number of tough decisions to make before next spring arrives. Let's start with an evaluation of Domonic Brown.
Brown's career path has been interesting. But, it's fair to say that he played a more controlled game this year. I have no doubt that he benefited from the influence of Ryne Sandberg and Steve Henderson, both of whom are now part of the Phillies' major league coaching staff.
While his 2012 plate appearances looked steady, his batting average and OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) numbers were both lower than last season. However, Brown posted a 1.000 fielding percentage. His ability to track the ball, make plays and use his strong arm were all noticeably better than in past seasons.
I can't yet say whether he'll develop into a full-time major league player. But, he seems almost certain to be in right field next season and I can easily see a platoon that includes Brown and the right-handed hitting John Mayberry. In consideration of their combined potential and low salaries, this projection seems to make sense.
Ruf and the rest
As long as Darin Ruf plays well in the Venezuelan League and has a productive spring training, platooning him in left field with Laynce Nix, or Nate Schierholtz (who is arbitration eligible), could work. Making that assumption is somewhat problematic, because what if Ruf isn't ready by April?
If the above scenarios do actually play out, center field still has no real internal answer. Therefore, well-known free agents like the Tampa Bay Rays' B.J, Upton (28, right-handed hitter) or the Atlanta Braves' Michael Bourn (30 by next season, left-handed hitter) might be pursued. Like anyone, both of those players aren't perfect and have mixed elements within their games.
A trade candidate, like Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Peter Bourjos (26 by next season, right-handed hitter), could also be pursued. His name was mentioned because the Phillies were apparently interested in him as part of a potential trade package for Cole Hamels in July. Thankfully, that deal never had to be made.
I'm not sure that one offseason allows enough time to completely fix the outfield. But, that's the situation Amaro has created. So, we'll see what he does as next spring quickly approaches.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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