Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Freeing of Domonic Brown

This has been the moment both Domonic Brown and the Philadelphia Phillies fans have been waiting for. Ever since Brown began storming through the minor leagues and was named one of, if not the, top prospect in baseball, fans have been salivating over his arrival while Brown himself continued to mash minor league pitching and await his chance.

Finally last season he got his chance, getting called up toward the end of the year to get some seasoning as the Phils made another bid at the top spot in the National League. The buzz around the area was quite large for Brown, but in limited playing time he struggled. Brown batting just .210 in 35 games and 70 plate appearances, striking out an alarming 24 times. Worse than his numbers, he often looked overmatched and out of place. He struggled so mightily that some fans started waving red flags, and when he hit woefully in the winter league, the term "bust" started being tossed around.

As it turned out, Brown didn't let any of that affect him. After struggling in his short stint last season, Dom began to tinker with his stance and hand positioning in the winter league on the advice of his coaches. He had trouble adjusting, and when it came time for this season to start, he went back to the form that had gotten him this far. All Dom did from there was destroy minor league pitching once again, and when Shane Victorino went down, up he came.

He's been on a role ever since. Sure, Brown didn't do much in the way of hitting his first few games, but as he's gotten more playing time, he's begun to flourish and show exactly why he's so highly touted. In 11 games this season, Dom is batting .324 with a .529 slugging percentage and .898 OPS. And he looks infinitely more comfortable than he did last season in the midst of a playoff run. That's evident by his much decreased strikeout rate. In 39 plate appearances, Brown has struck out just 4 times this season. And perhaps even more encouraging, he's hitting damn near everything hard.

Since he's been freed, he's been nothing but a bright spot. And with each at-bat he seems to be gaining confidence. After starting 1-for-14 in his first four games, Brown has gone 10-for-20 in his last 7 games, hitting safely in 6 of those. And it would have been 7 had Laynce Nix not robbed him and the Phillies yesterday.

It will be interesting to see what exactly the Phillies will do with Shane Victorino scheduled to return tomorrow, specifically how they handle Brown. This team already has a surplus of outfielders, with opening day starters Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco starting to swing better, not to mention the impressive outfield play and improved approach at the plate by John Mayberry. And that's not even mentioning Ross Gload. But the way Brown is playing, it's going to be hard to keep him off the field. He's already been semi-freed, and it wouldn't make a whole of sense to lock him back up now. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

What I do know is that Domonic Brown is proving to be every bit the player he was projected to be, and when Ibanez and Francisco move on, the Phillies outfield will be in good hands with Victorino, Mayberry and Brown out there.

Oh, and Domonic Brown will be beloved in the City of Brotherly Love. Actually, he already is.

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