I've been completely delinquent in writing this player preview, but I have a really good reason: it's just too depressing. I want to have good things to say about Domonic Brown, I really do. I was on the bandwagon way back when (when times were simpler and baseball in Philadelphia was pure) and hoped that Brown would be the next big Phillies star. Unfortunately, that hasn't exactly been what's happened with his career. And, as much as it pains me, I just don't see much positive in the future, minus one fluky possibility.
More on that later. First, let's go over what Brown's career has been. I'll start with the positives:
May 2013: All was right in the world of Domonic Brown for one glorious month. In May 2013, it seemed like every pitch Brown was thrown was knocked out of the park with his looping graceful swing. That's not entirely accurate, as he did have 20 non-home run hits, but he had 12 home runs for the month, good for a .688 slugging percentage. Overall, he hit .303/.303/.688 with 25 RBI, 17 runs, and 3 stolen bases.
If you actually extend beyond the arbitrary calendar-based beginning/end points of the month and look at Brown's hot streak in its entirety that year, between May 2 and June 8, he had 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 25 runs, and 6 stolen bases. His triple-slash line was .326/.345/.756 good for a 1.101 OPS. That's an astounding run for a young player, one that was good enough to get him a place on the NL All-Star team.
Other positives: . . . . . I'm just not sure there are any real ones here. May 2013 was not only the highlight of Brown's career but pretty much its only positive so far.
Otherwise, here are the negatives:
Everything but May 2013: Brown's career numbers are .248/.308/.412 with a .721 OPS, .313 wOBA, -1.1 fWAR, and 100 OPS+. Those aren't terrible, but they're also far from good for a corner outfielder.
But, what if we take out that hot streak? How has Brown done with the rest of his career? In the other 1405 plate appearances in his career, Brown has been a .240/.305/.376 hitter, good for a .680 OPS.
Almost all of that OPS difference comes in his power. In that hot streak, Brown had 16 home runs in 139 plate appearances or 1 home run every 8.7 plate appearances. In the rest of his career, Brown has 33 home runs in 1405 plate appearances, or 1 home run every 42.6 plate appearances. That's an incredible difference.
Defense: We started hearing rumblings of Brown's defensive inadequacy when he was making his way through the minor leagues. The hope was that he was an athletic guy who would learn the outfield and adapt into an adequate fielder. Unfortunately, despite many of us, including me, still hoping that will happen, it's time to face the reality that he's an awful fielder. Whatever defensive metric you like, Brown is rated terribly. Watching him in the field is usually just brutal.
And when you incorporate his atrocious defense into his overall value alongside his mediocre-at-best hitting, Brown rated as the worst outfielder in baseball last year by fWAR. See why I put off writing this for so long?
Missed promise: Not only are we reeling from Brown's failure to produce on the field, but the Phillies as a franchise are reeling from having failed to trade him when he had value. Now, don't get me wrong - I was decidedly in the camp that supported not trading Brown and holding onto his promise. But, in retrospect, that was just incorrect. If the Phillies had traded Brown when he was young and a top prospect, they may have been able to get a piece that would be part of the future. As it stands, Brown himself doesn't seem like he's that piece.
Injury: Adding injury to insult, Brown is starting the year on the DL with an Achilles problem. Right now, it's not a severe injury, but word is that his rehab is coming along slowly. And, if you're like me, after our experience with Ryan Howard, Achilles injuries really scare me, especially for a lefty power hitter.
Putting it all together, I think the projections for Brown this year are pretty optimistic . . . with one caveat. Here are what the projection systems say:
ZiPS: 515 PA, 18 HR, .178 ISO, .325 wOBA, .256/.311/.434, 0.9 fWAR.
Steamer: 504 PA, 17 HR, .169 ISO, .323 wOBA, .254/.313/.423, 0.2 fWAR.
Depth Charts: 490 PA, 17 HR, .173 ISO, .324 wOBA, .255/.313/.429, 0.6 fWAR.
These numbers are quite mediocre, especially for a corner outfielder, but they are better than what Brown has produced for most of his career (especially if you remove his hot streak in 2013).
So why might there be some sliver of a reason of optimism, some hope that Brown won't be the worst outfielder in baseball again this year? I think it boils down to one number - 27. This year is Brown's age-27 year in baseball, and as we all know, this is when the magic happens. Well, not for everyone, but statistically, this is it.
Combine that with the old internet proverb that dead cats bounce, and maybe we can expect non-horrible things from Brown this year? If we get that, I'm afraid it will be cause for celebration, which is kinda sad when you think about it.