Shane Victorino hit the disabled list earlier today with a strained abdominal muscle suffered when he dove back into first base last night, so now the Phillies are replacing him with the best prospect in baseball: outfielder Domonic Brown. Most of us expected Brown to get the call once the team traded Jayson Werth, but Victorino’s injury makes such a deal unlikely. Werth will instead shift to center to take over for the Flyin Hawaiian, and Brown will assume everyday rightfield duties. He’s in the lineup tonight, batting sixth.
Both Baseball America and Keith Law ranked Brown as the game’s best prospect at midseason, and with good reason. The 607th overall pick in the 2006 started his career as a tall and lanky 18-year-old that oozed athleticism but needed to learn how to convert his physical gifts into baseball skills. Brown has done that and then some, improving his performance each year of his career and with each climb up the ladder. Here’s his progression, using basic triple-slash stats:
2006: .214/.292/.265 in rookie ball
2007: .299/.363/.415 in mostly short season ball
2008: .291/.382/.417 in Low-A
2009: .299/.377/.504 with ~60% of his PA in High-A and ~40% in Double-A
2010: .327/.391/.589 with ~70% of his PA in Double-A and ~30% in Triple-A
“A free swinger as an amateur, Brown has developed a solid eye at the plate and recognizes pitches well,” said the BA gang when they ranked him the game’s 15th best prospect before the season. “The biggest question on Brown’s upside revolves around how much power he’ll develop. Some Double-A Eastern League observers thought his power would be average at best and would limit him to hitting at the top of the lineup, rather than being a middle-of-the-lineup factor.” KLaw wasn’t as skeptical about his pop, saying Brown “has 30-plus homer potential” when he ranked him the 14th best prospect in baseball before the season. As you can see above, Brown has increased his ISO’s from .126 to .205 to .262 in each of the last three seasons, so the power is definitely coming.
The Phillies promoted their best prospect to Triple-A for the first time this season after he hit .318/.391/.602 at Double-A Reading in the first half, and the 22-year-old has hit .346/.390/.561 in 118 plate appearances since the move. His MLE sits at .289/.320/.456 this season (according to MinorLeagueSplits.com), though CHONE was a bit more pessimistic before the season, predicting a .248/.348/.303 line. I’d definitely expect more of the former, especially playing regularly in Citizen’s Bank Park. He’ll even steal some bases, averaging close to 25 SB per 500 plate appearances in his minor league life.
Brown has exhibited a bit of a platoon split in each season of his career except 2008, but that appears to be an outlier at this point. Generally speaking, it’s about a 100 point drop in OPS, which is tolerable for a guy with a bat like this. We’re not talking about an Andre Ethier (or worse, a Curtis Granderson) kind of split here. I’d probably sit him against the better lefties at least early on just until he gets his feet wet, but there’s no question that Brown will be a viable fantasy outfielder almost immediately. There’s plenty of help around him in the lineup, so he’ll have RBI opportunities, and there’s nothing blocking his playing time (except for Ben Francisco’s .318 wOBA).
Brown has already been gobbled up in 9% of Yahoo! leagues, so make sure you run out and grab him while you can. He could play his way into #2 outfielder status by next month, and obviously has the potential to be even better going forward for those of you lucky enough to have him in a keeper league.