How Do You Solve a Problem Like Domonic Brown?


Beleaguered Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown has played well lately. Over the past 30 days, he’s put up an .815 OPS, and according to Fangraphs, he’s been worth 0.3 wins over that time. In a season where the Phillies are trying to find players who could be part of a successful future, it seems like a positive sign that Brown is beginning to assert himself.

Jul 31, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder

Domonic Brown

(9) hits a single during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that easy. That shouldn’t be surprising, since very little has been easy for Brown thus far in his major league career.

Brown was once the Phillies’ top prospect. According to one list, he was the top prospect in all of baseball. He was regarded as a sure-thing, future superstar, to the point where a refusal to include him in the deal prevented the Phillies from trading for Roy Halladay during the 2009 season.

Not every top prospect immediately takes the majors by storm, and Brown’s early career was far from impressive. He spent portions of the 2010-2012 seasons on the major league roster, but due to injuries, questionable decisions by team management, and a failure to produce, he was unable to capture a full-time job in the outfield.

Brown was the team’s left fielder to start 2013, and in the first half of that season, he finally had the breakout everyone was waiting for. He went on a home run-hitting binge, was named the National League’s player of the month for June, and earned a spot on the All-Star team. While his second half wasn’t nearly as impressive, Brown still led the team with 27 home runs, and at 25 years of age, he looked like he would be a cornerstone of the team’s offense.

The expectation was that he would continue to improve in 2014. Instead, he took a huge step back and was one of the worst players in baseball.

Brown suffered another injury during Spring Training before the 2015 season. After he was healthy, the team surprisingly chose to keep him in the minor leagues, stating he needed to prove he was worthy of a call-up. If they were trying to light a fire under him, it didn’t have an immediate effect. He got off to a slow start, with a notable absence of power.

Eventually, he heated up to the point where the team felt a recall was merited. Upon returning to the majors, he once again struggled. It took him 37 games to hit his first home run, and the base running and defensive problems which had plagued him throughout his career were still present. I had argued that rebuilding teams shouldn’t easily give up on 27-year-old former All-Stars, but even I was ready to end things at that point.

It was right about that time that Brown heated up. After last night’s home run (his fourth in eight games), he is officially one of the hottest hitters in the National League.

I think fan perception of Brown is a bit skewed. It feels like people expect him to either be the top prospect who made the All-Star team, or a complete bust who provides negative value. But what if the true Dom Brown lies somewhere in between?

What if Dom Brown continues to play well for the rest of the season? What if it looks like Brown might ultimately be a above average player? What do they do with him then?

My guess is that unless he goes into another horrific slump (which is always a possibility), Brown will be back in 2016.

Aaron Altherr. Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Brown haters – and there are many – will say that he’s had his chance. They would prefer the team cut ties with him and make room for some of the team’s many minor league outfielders. The problem is, that aside from Aaron Altherr, none of them seem likely to start the 2016 season in the majors.

The Phillies will need somebody to play outfield to start 2016, so why not go with a relatively young, relatively cheap option who has at least shown some potential? Brown will be 28 years old in 2016 and in his last season of arbitration. He might get a slight bump in pay over the $2.6 million he’s making this season, but I can’t imagine he’d get much more.

They could try to trade him, but even though his stock has risen slightly, I still don’t think teams will offer much in return. If he does re-establish himself as a useful player, the team would be much more likely to get a decent offer in the offseason or at next year’s trading deadline.

As for next season, if Brown continues to play well, the team might find itself with a surplus of good outfielders. Considering some of the guys they’ve run out there the past few seasons, I don’t think that’s a bad problem to have.

And if he struggles again? Then the haters will likely get their wish and Domonic Brown will finally be an ex-Phillie.

Next: Foles Throws Awful Pick in Rams Camp

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