Is Phillies' Outfielder Domonic Brown No Longer a True Blue Chip Prospect?

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterDecember 20, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 10: Domonic Brown #9 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a two run home run against the Miami Marlins during the fifth inning of a MLB baseball game on September 10, 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

It wasn’t long ago that Domonic Brown was considered one of the top prospects in the game. In fact, Baseball America ranked Brown as baseball’s No. 4 prospect before the 2011 season—and with good reason.

Brown seemingly had it all: a tall, projectable frame, athleticism, emerging baseball skills and a mature feel for the game. He was fresh off of a 2010 season in which he batted .327/.391/.589 with 20 home runs, 17 stolen bases and 51/29 K/BB in 93 games between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Brown, a 22-year-old at the time, also reached the major leagues for the first time in late July and batted .210/.257/.355 with 24 strikeouts in 35 games. While his weaknesses were certainly exposed, he still showcased loud tools and plenty of natural ability.

He entered the 2011 season as a strong candidate for one of the Phillies’ corner outfield spots, but fractured the hamate bone in his right wrist in early March and didn’t return until late April. He returned to the major leagues in late May and hung around until the end of July when was demoted to the minor leagues.

Overall, it was a hugely disappointing year for the outfielder, posting a .725 OPS in 210 plate appearances.

Since then, Brown’s stock has taken a hit to the point where his long-term role with the organization is uncertain. He spent most of the 2012 season in the minor leagues, and when he was finally called up in late July, he posted a .712 OPS in 212 plate appearances—nearly identical to his 2011 output.

Once again Brown will be in the mix for playing time to open the 2013 season, but that could change if the Phillies sign a free-agent corner outfielder. Having said that, it’s apparent that the organization is questioning whether the 25-year-old will ever produce at the major-league level.

It was just last week that we learned the Phillies and Cubs had discussed a swap of Alfonso Soriano for Brown.

It’s also worth noting that in Brown’s 10-year forecast at Baseball Prospectus, his WARP projection ranges from 1.1 to 2.0, with the high end occurring in his peak seasons.

The one facet of Brown’s game that makes me optimistic is his plate discipline, which was solid in the major leagues in both 2011 and 2012. Beyond that, he still gives something to dream on with outstanding athleticism and impact tools.

However, if he does receive significant playing time in the major leagues this season, it will likely be his last chance—at least with the Phillies.