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What Do the Phillies Really Have with Domonic Brown?

Not Long Ago, He was One of the Leading Prospects in the Minor Leagues. But His Development Has Been a Mystery

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COMMENTARY | At some point, every sports phenom gets a trial by fire. The potential superstar can only be nurtured for so long before being pushed out on the big stage to make it or fail trying. Some shine almost immediately, others take some time. Still others never live up to expectations.

All a sports organization can do is see what happens.

Such is the situation with the Philadelphia Phillies and outfielder Domonic Brown, who just a few short years ago was considered the fourth-best minor-league prospect in all of baseball. He spent the 2010 season playing mostly in Class AA and AAA, hitting a combined .327 with 20 home runs in 68 RBIs in only 389 at-bats. In his first major league plate appearance against the Arizona Diamondbacks in July of that year, the 22-year-old slammed a double off the right-field wall to drive in a run.

But high moments for Domonic Brown have been few and far between since. With assorted injuries and some frustrating inconsistency at both the major and minor league levels since, it's been hard to get a read on where Brown is in his career progression. He's 25 now and the Phillies decided before spring training even began this year they were going to put him in the lineup every day at one of the outfield positions and see if and when the light goes on.

Clearly he has all the skills - a good batting eye, good power, great speed, a great throwing arm. But it's often been puzzling to watch.

Offensively, Brown has a lovely swing, kind of an abbreviated version of Ken Griffey Jr. Brown doesn't seem bothered by breaking pitches or changes of speeds. He's never really seemed overmatched in the batter's box at any point. From time to time he shows flashes of brilliance but doesn't seem to find a groove, or at least one of any duration. Right now he's hitting .228 with a double, two homers and six RBIs in 18 games. Mechanically, it just seems it's a matter of time, or so the Phillies are hoping.

Defensively, he can't be an absolute adventure. There are times when simply tracking a routine fly ball appears to have him dancing for proper position. He's been known to dive for catches he can't possibly make, such as the first game at Citizens Bank Park this season when he was a yard short of a sinking liner to left field resulting in a three-run triple for Kansas City's Chris Getz. At the same time he has his good moments, it just doesn't seem as effortless as with most outfielders. If you think Hunter Pence of a few Phillies' seasons ago, you get the idea. The tools are there, but for whatever reason, they're not quite in perfect working order.

It's the same Pence comparison on the bases. Taking leads and reading pickoff moves are really art forms for quality base stealers. At this point in his development, the nuances of the stolen base aren't there for Brown, who has terrific speed. He hasn't even attempted a stolen base in 74 games over the last two seasons, although injuries have played a role.

In the last two seasons, Brown has played 112 major league games and 111 minor league games. In his 165 career major league games, he's batted .235 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs. But sooner or later, the Phillies had to find out what they have in Domonic Brown. With an aging team and several big contracts coming off the books next season, it appears this is the right time take a serious look.

Domonic Brown's chance is now. All the Phillies can do is see what happens.

Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.

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