Baseball America’s Top 10 Phillies Prospects

2013 Philadelphia Phillies Top 10 Prospects

By Matt Forman
December 17, 2012

Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects

Lists are based on projections of a player’s long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven’t exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible.

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TOP TEN
PROSPECTS
1. Jesse Biddle, lhp
2. Roman Quinn, ss
3. Tommy Joseph, c
4. Jon Pettibone, rhp
5. Adam Morgan, lhp
6. Ethan Martin, rhp
7. Cody Asche, 3b
8. Maikel Franco, 3b
9. Darin Ruf, 1b/of
10. Carlos Tocci, of
BEST
TOOLS
Best Hitter for Average Cody Asche
Best Power Hitter Darin Ruf
Best Strike Zone Discipline Darin Ruf
Fastest Baserunner Roman Quinn
Best Athlete Roman Quinn
Best Fastball Kenny Giles
Best Curveball Jesse Biddle
Best Slider Adam Morgan
Best Changeup Jon Pettibone
Best Control Jon Pettibone
Best Defensive Catcher Sebastian Valle
Best Defensive Infielder Cesar Hernandez
Best Infield Arm Maikel Franco
Best Defensive OF Tyson Gillies
Best Outfield Arm Kyrell Hudson
PROJECTED 2016
LINEUP
Catcher Tommy Joseph
First Base Ryan Howard
Second Base Chase Utley
Third Base Cody Asche
Shortstop Roman Quinn
Left Field Darin Ruf
Center Field Ben Revere
Right Field Domonic Brown
No. 1 Starter Cole Hamels
No. 2 Starter Cliff Lee
No. 3 Starter Roy Halladay
No. 4 Starter Jesse Biddle
No. 5 Starter Jonathan Pettibone
Closer Jonathan Papelbon
TOP PROSPECTS
OF THE DECADE
Year Player, Pos 2012 Org
2003 Gavin Floyd, rhp White Sox
2004 Cole Hamels, lhp Phillies
2005 Ryan Howard, 1b Phillies
2006 Cole Hamels, lhp Phillies
2007 Carlos Carrasco, rhp Indians
2008 Carlos Carrasco, rhp Indians
2009 Domonic Brown, of Phillies
2010 Domonic Brown, of Phillies
2011 Domonic Brown, of Phillies
2012 Trevor May, rhp Phillies
TOP DRAFT PICKS
OF THE DECADE
Year Player, Pos 2012 Org
2003 Tim Moss, 2B (3rd round) Out of baseball
2004 Greg Golson, OF Yankees
2005 Mike Costanzo, 3B (2nd round) Reds
2006 Kyle Drabek, RHP/SS Blue Jays
2007 Joe Savery, LHP Phillies
2008 Anthony Hewitt, SS Phillies
2009 Kelly Dugan, OF Phillies
2010 Jesse Biddle, LHP Phillies
2011 Larry Greene, OF Phillies
2012 Shane Watson, RHP Phillies
LARGEST BONUSES
IN CLUB HISTORY
Gavin Floyd, 2001 $4,200,000
Pat Burrell, 1998 $3,150,000
Brett Myers, 1999 $2,050,000
Cole Hamels, 2002 $2,000,000
Chase Utley, 2000 $1,780,000
PHILLIES
LINKS
Phillies Team Page
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Last Year’s Phillies Top 10 Prospects
2012 Draft: Phillies
2012 Draft Report Cards: Philadelphia Phillies Premium
Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2013 Prospect Handbook
Philadelphia Phillies

For different reasons, the Phillies’ last two seasons have ended in disappointment. In 2011, the playoff run that had become an annual expectation in Philadelphia ended too early. In 2012, there was no postseason baseball in Philadelphia at all, for the first time in six years.

The Phillies expected their season to start slowly because of lingering injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, but it never really got on its projected course, at least until it was too late. The Phillies finished 81-81, their worst record since 2002, and needed a late-season blitz just to break even after falling 14 games under .500 at one point. Philadelphia lost several more players for significant time to injuries, including Jose Contreras, Freddy Galvis, Roy Halladay, Placido Polanco, Mike Stutes and Vance Worley.

As a result, the Phillies were sellers on the trade market for the first time since 2006. One year after acquiring Hunter Pence, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. shipped him to the Giants for Nate Schierholtz and a pair of prospects (catcher Tommy Joseph and righthander Seth Rosin). Amaro also sent Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino to the Dodgers in separate deals for Josh Lindblom and righthanders Ethan Martin and Ryan O’Sullivan.

The big league struggles gave Philadelphia a chance to evaluate its system, as eight rookies debuted in the majors, the most since it had 15 in 1996. Along with the unexpected development of a few prospects, that ensured the last two months of the season weren’t completely irrelevant.

Once considered an organization player, first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf blasted 20 homers in Double-A in August to tie Sammy Sosa’s pro record for a single month, then hit three more during a September callup. Tyler Cloyd, a soft-tossing righty who’s short on stuff but strong on pitching sense, made his major league debut in August and won two of his six starts. Longtime minor league veteran Eric Kratz showed some pop, while Phillippe Aumont flashed his plus stuff out of the bullpen. In varying capacities, they all figure to contribute in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Phillies’ .500 finish secured them a higher first-round pick than any in recent memory, as long as they don’t sign a free agent who requires compensation. They’re slated to select 16th, their highest selection since they took Gavin Floyd fourth overall in 2001.

Philadelphia has stuck with its philosophy of drafting high-upside athletes, with scouting director Marti Wolever preferring lefthanded pitching and speed. That’s reflected on this list, which begins with a southpaw (Jesse Biddle) and a fleet-footed shortstop (Roman Quinn). Quinn is one of several members of a talented 2011 draft class who took a big step forward in their first full pro seasons, a group that also included lefthander Adam Morgan, third baseman Cody Asche and flamethrowing reliever Kenny Giles.

Most of the Phillies’ best prospects are at least a year or two away from being ready for Citizens Bank Park, so Amaro swung two trades for veteran offensive help in December. He acquired Ben Revere from the Twins for Vance Worley and enigmatic righthander Trevor May, then dispatched Lindblom and righty Lisalverto Bonilla to get Michael Young from the Rangers.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Phillies, who will return several significant players from their 2007-11 National League East championship clubs in 2013. If they can stay healthy—certainly not a guarantee given the age of many of the players—their season could have a happier ending.

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Domonic Brown Where Are You?

The Dramatic Decline of Domonic Brown

by J.P. Breen via FANGRAPHS

Domonic Brown

Coming into the 2011 season, Domonic Brown ranked as the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. The Philadelphia Phillies had just watched right fielder Jayson Werth depart for greener pastures in Washington and felt confident that Brown was the long-term answer at the position.

A little more than a year later, we’re all left wondering what went wrong.

At age 23, Brown got his second extended look in the big leagues starting in May of 2011. Though some skill at the plate was evident, he ultimately underwhelmed with a .322 wOBA in 210 plate appearances. The league-average wOBA in right field was .334 in 2011, and the struggles on defense could not justify allowing him to work through his growing pains at the big league level — at least, not for a team with legitimate World Series aspirations.

Philadelphia sent Brown back down to Triple-A in August. The only other big league action he saw last season was a brief call-up in late September once rosters expanded and the Triple-A season had already been completed.

His lack of success was largely attributed to the quickening of the game at the major league level.

“The big leagues moves fast,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “A lot of times when you come up there the game is quick. They catch a lot of balls you hit, things like that. Once you get used to it, if you’ve got the talent and you’ve got the fight and desire and the work ethic and everything. Then you’ll improve.”

In brief, Brown should have been expected to struggle in his transition to baseball at the highest level. Scouts, coaches, and players always talk about making adjustments. Brown simply had not made those adjustments yet at the major league, but very few people doubted the adjustments would happen and success would follow.

Fast forward to this season, and we find the young man hitting a paltry .247/.290/.355 through 26 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. That was not supposed to happen. The Phillies wanted Brown to begin the season in Triple-A to build confidence and rediscover the success he enjoyed in Triple-A back in 2010, when he hit .346/.390/.561 in 28 games as a 22-year-old. It was not supposed to be a deepening of the struggles that plagued him last season at the big league level.

His .286 wOBA in Triple-A has fans and scouts absolutely miffed. When asked what caused the precipitous drop-off in production from Domonic Brown, one minor league scout said, “I don’t think anyone knows for sure.” Furthermore, Kevin Goldstein ofBaseball Prospectus, who speaks with scouts every day regarding minor league players, said, “I think I’ve passed 100 on the number of theories I’ve heard.”

Domonic Brown

One possible explanation for his struggles revolves around swing changes that the Phillies organization attempted to employ during spring training back in 2011. The organization wanted Brown to lower his hands at address to help shorten the swing and provide greater stability throughout his swinging motion. This video from early 2011 does a nice job illustrating the specific change and how it related to his timing at the plate.

The swing change, however, did not improve his success. In fact, he felt so uncomfortable with the lowering of his hands that he abandoned the swing changeall together. It is conceivable that the differing placement of his hands has ultimately disturbed his timing at the plate, and he is still working to rediscover the comfort he possessed in his swing throughout his minor league career prior to the 2011 season.

Another theory that some have put forward stems from his myriad of hand injuries. Since the 2009 season, Domonic Brown has suffered four injuries to his right hand. He has broken his hamate bone, which required surgery, sprained his thumb twice, and broken his pinkie finger. Perhaps the hand injuries — specifically the three since 2011 spring training — have been a major culprit in his power decline, a decline that has culminated in a 2012 season with no home runs thus far. He would not be the first hitter to experience such issues after multiple hand injuries.

In addition, not only has Brown played with swing changes and suffered multiple injuries in his right hand, he also been bounced around the organization and the playing field. He yo-yoed from Triple-A to the majors in both 2010 and 2011. His Triple-A manager,Ryne Sandbergsaid he dealt with a “rollercoaster season” in 2011. He needed stability. This season, the organization switched him to left field. Though that may sound insignificant because it is largely considered to be one of the easiest defensive positions, Domonic Brown struggled to learn routes and jumps in right field. Now, he must start over and learn an entirely new position, while still trying to straighten out his issues at the plate.

It is once again conceivable that the constant change throughout the past couple of years has ultimately fueled his decline.

The ultimate reasoning behind his decline at the plate may puzzle scouts, but the organization desperately hopes that he snaps out of it because he remains a focal point in the Phillies’ future plans for the outfield. Center fielder Shane Victorino is slated to become a free agent following this season, right fielder Hunter Pence will become a free agent following the 2013 season, and left field is currently handled by a committee of fringe players in John MayberryLaynce Nix, and Juan Pierre. Opportunities for ample playing time should be numerous for Brown. He simply needs to prove deserving of those opportunities.

Despite the struggles for Domonic Brown, the same scout mentioned earlier offered words of encouragement, “The tools are still there, though. There’s still hope.”

Past Trades Have Worked Well For Phils As Players Pan Out

So far, so good: A Phillies prospect retrospective

Written by: Eric Longenhagen

The trade is perhaps baseball’s most fascinating event. The individuals involved suddenly have their lives uprooted and relocated somewhere entirely new, Twitter explodes, the Majestic factory in Easton, PA, begins minting never-before-seen jerseys and you venture to ESPN.com to berate Keith Law for his opinion on the trade because he invariably hates the team you root    for. More often than not, these trades involve one party trading a known, short-term asset for one or more relatively unknown, long-term assets. We call these young players “prospects.”

Jonathan Singleton is the most recent of a long list of highly regarded prospects the Phillies have traded away. (David Schofield/For The Times)

Thanks to the internet, people know more about prospects than they ever have before. Sometimes this is lovely. Rangers fans know who Jurickson Profar is and have interesting discussions about what GM Jon Daniels will do with Elivs Andrus when Profar is ready for primetime. Roto freaks sit with their finger on the mouse waiting for Desmond Jennings to get called up so they can be the first to snatch him off waives and reap the financial benefits shortly thereafter. We also get to make jokes about Yeonis Cespedes’ core strength. That’s all fantastic. Inevitably, there’s also plenty of bad that comes with the obsession. People overreact, become prisoners of the moment and suddenly think the world of Junior Lake and very little ofDomonic Brown. Insufferable blowhards pester Kevin Goldstein, “How is Austin Romine not on this list? He’s a future star! Moron.” Just because you are passionate about something doesn’t necessarily mean you are well informed. Prospects teach us this all the time.

Domonic Brown

No matter how smart you are when it comes to prospects, you’re not that smart. None of us are. You’re predicting the futures of teenage children, many of who are simultaneously learning baseball and assimilating into an entirely new culture. Mistakes in judgment will be made. To show as much, I have compiled here a nice little case study. Thanks to the aggressive nature of General Manager Ruben Amaro (and his predecessor Pat Gillick) the Phillies have essentially traded away an entire farm system worth of talent over the past four years. This franchise’s sequence of events is prime for analysis. The Phillies went from a franchise suffering from a decade’s worth of mediocrity (Mike LieberthalTravis Lee!) and became one of baseball’s juggernauts. They’ve done a lot of this via “the trade.”

How did these trades shake out for each of the franchises involved? Did the prospects pan out the way we thought they would? With the Phillies, we have a large enough sample of deals and, most importantly, enough time has passed to talk about the principles involved with some degree of certainty. Hopefully you’ve been entrenched in prospectdom long enough to recollect your thoughts on these trades at their time of completion. In parentheses after each prospect’s name is their peak ranking in the Phillies system per Baseball America.

Phillies acquire Brad Lidge from Astros for Michael Bourn (Peak rank: #3), Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo (#6)

Lidge had one magical season that undoubtedly helped the Phillies win a World Series. “Magical” is code for “he was very good but also very lucky.” Lidge has since suffered a drastic decline in stuff and physical health. Bourn became an above-average regular at a premium position, surpassing many a pundit’s expectations that he’d be a fourth outfielder. Astros GM Ed Wade traded him to the Braves this past season for too little. He’s an excellent player. Geary (a middle reliever) and Costanzo (who never saw the majors) are inconsequential. From a sheer regular season baseball value perspective, the Astros won this trade, but the Phils won a title, so we’ll call it a push.

Phillies acquire Joe Blanton from A’s for Adrian Cardenas (#2), Josh Outman (#4) and Matt Spencer

Blanton, his injuries and his conditioning have all been frustrating of late, but he too played a role that led to Philadelphia’s 2008 championship. Outman reached the majors and looked like he’d be a nice back-end starter until Tommy John surgery sucked some life out of his fastball. He was traded to the Rockies this week. His role is up in the air, but it’s safe to say he’s at least an un-embarrassing placeholder while the Rockies develop upgrades. Adrian Cardenas was named High School Player of the Year by Baseball America in 2006. At the time of this trade, he was the centerpiece. A once potential middle infielder with a plus bat, Cardenas isn’t good enough defensively to play anywhere in the infield (other than 1B) and his bat isn’t good enough to profile in left field. He’s only 23, but he looks like an extra guy at best. Spencer was a throw-in and has never made it to the majors.

Phillies acquire John Mayberry Jr. from Rangers for Greg Golson (#2)

Your classic change of scenery trade, Mayberry had been a first-round pick of the Mariners during Gillick’s tenure in Seattle but decided not to sign and went to college at Stanford instead. He was redrafted by the Rangers a few years later, again in round one. When you’ve been drafted twice in the first round, you’ve got tools to succeed. Mayberry clearly hasn’t optimized his talent for one reason or another (Stanford is notorious for irreparably altering hitters’ swings) but the change of scenery did him some good. He’s a fine fourth outfielder or platoon bat and showed some chops in center field last year. Mayberry whacks lefties, plays every outfield position pretty well and can moonlight at first base in a pinch. To get that for six years at a very low cost is a bargain. Golson had one of the most impressive tool packages you’ll ever see but could never sort it out at the dish. He’s an extra guy.

Phillies acquire Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco from Indians for Lou Marson (#3), Jason Donald (#4),Carlos Carrasco (#1) and Jason Knapp (#10)

I don’t have to tell you what Lee has been up to. Carrasco has always had top-of-the-rotation stuff but had the most glaring on-mound makeup issues I’ve ever seen. As soon as something went wrong, he’d unravel. While Carrasco has gotten things together enough that he’s not a basket case, he’s no world beater, either. He might yet put it together and yield above-average results, but it’s hard to believe he was once the crown jewel of the Phillies system. Knapp was the other piece in this deal with any real upside. A plus-plus fastball and a workhorse build meant Knapp had top-of-the-rotation potential as long he could be kept healthy and develop secondary stuff. That hasn’t happened. Knapp threw just 28 innings in 2010 and didn’t pitch in 2011. There’s still time for Knapp, he’s only 21, but it’s now much more likely he’s just a reliever. Marson has become a fine defensive catcher but profiles as a backup. Donald can’t play shortstop well enough to play every day and doesn’t hit enough for anywhere else. He’s bench fodder.

Phillies acquire Phillippe Aumont (#2), Tyson Gillies (#8) and JC Ramirez (#5) from Mariners for Cliff Lee

The Phillies found out in 2010 what the Mariners had known since 2008 had ended: Phillippe Aumont’s control issues relegate him to the bullpen. The control issues, which stem primarily from Aumont’s size and lack of athleticism to overcome it, are still there and rear their ugly head in frustrating spurts. The stuff, however, is nasty. Mid-90s heater with sink and a plus curveball mean Aumont will be a fine late-inning arm. He’ll arrive in Philly sometime this year. Gillies is still a work in progress after chronic injury issues derailed 2010 and 2011 for him. His slappy swing could mean he’ll have on-base issues in the future. He looks like a nice extra outfielder but if the approach somehow holds up and the defense is either elite in a corner or average in center, he’d be a decent regular. JC Ramirez has regressed to a point where it’s tough to consider him a prospect at all right now. His strikeout rate has plummeted. On a side note, I find it amusing that Seattle now employs both Justin Smoakand Jesus Montero, the prospects they were essentially deciding between when they ultimately chose to send Lee to the Rangers in 2010.

Phillies acquire Roy Halladay from Blue Jays for Michael Taylor (#3), Travis d’Arnaud (#4) and Kyle Drabek (#2)

Taylor was immediately spun to Oakland for Brett Wallace and has been a disappointment. He’s never had the kind of raw power you’d expect from someone built like an NFL tight end (thanks again, Stanford) but had average-or-above tools across the board. Billy Beane re-signed Coco Crisp and acquired Josh Reddick andSeth Smith this winter. Those aren’t exactly endorsements of Taylor’s future. Drabek, his plus fastball and power curveball in tow, looked like a future #2 starter. The Phillies certainly thought so, they deemed Drabek untouchable for quite a while before begrudgingly parting with him in order to land Doc. Drabek reached Toronto last year but couldn’t find the strike zone. He had some embarrassing walk rates before being sent back down to the minors. He’ll need to be rebuilt. Travis d’Arnaud is going to end up being the best player in this trade. The young catcher won Eastern League MVP this past year and looks like he might contend for big boy MVPs one day. In an online environment where we probably talk about prospects too much, we don’t talk about d’Arnaud enough.

Phillies acquire Roy Oswalt from Astros for JA Happ (#8), Jonathan Villar (#22) and Anthony Gose (#6)

Oswalt was miscast as an “ace” when he got to Philly. He’s now a mid-rotation guy whose fastball velocity has dipped enough that it can no longer make up for what he lacks in downhill plane. Teams seem hesitant to give him even a one-year deal thanks to natural decline and his balky back. Happ was always a back-end starter at best. Thanks to some great luck on balls in play, good run support and Ed Wade’s ineptitude as a GM, the Phillies sold way high on Happ after a nice rookie year. Shortstop Villar was just 19 years old at the time of the trade. He remains a bit of a project at the plate but strides are being made. Villar posted a .767 OPS at high-A Lancaster last year before being moved up to double-A as a 20-year-old. The defense will stick at shortstop, so if he can hit even a little bit, Villar will be a fine big leaguer. He’s still a work in progress, perhaps the least polished member of this entire piece. Upon acquiring the uber-toolsy Gose, Ed Wade immediately flipped him to Toronto for … Brett Wallace, again. Toronto made some mechanical alterations to Gose’s swing to improve his performance at the plate, lengthening his stride a bit. I’m relatively bearish on Gose, I just don’t believe in the bat, but he’s one of the toolsiest athletes I’ve ever seen. Gose’s defense in center field is good enough that he’d likely be a nice player no matter how anemic his offensive output might be. Just something to keep in the back of your mind should Gose crap out completely: The lefty touched 97mph on the mound in high school.

Phillies acquire Hunter Pence from Astros for Jonathan Singleton (#2), Jarred Cosart (#4) and Josh Zeid

Jonathan Singleton is just 20 years old, but all indications are he’s going to be a monster. The physicality, the swing, the approach, it’s all there. After struggling a bit at the beginning of last year (the Phillies were tinkering with his swing a bit), Singleton dominated high-A. He hit .333/.405/.512 after this trade. Polished for a hitter his age, Singleton could see a cup of coffee with the Astros at the end of 2013. Cosart has a nasty three-pitch mix, a mid- to upper-90s heater with arm side run, and a curve and change that flash above average. It’s top-of-the-rotation material. Enthusiasm for Cosart is curbed by his violent delivery, which some see as a harbinger of doom as it pertains to his health. He has had arm issues in the past. Zeid is a nice middle-relief prospect.

Desmond Jennings

I spent three intro paragraphs alluding to the importance of objectivity and patience when it comes to talking about these young kids. Then, I revealed my unbridled zeal for Singleton and d’Arnaud. Does this make me a hypocrite? Yes. Yes, it does. I can’t help it, we’re talking about prospects. But look at what we have here: almost a trade a year for five years. Players of almost every career arc imaginable. Established big leaguers (Bourn), relative disappointments (Taylor, Aumont), future studs (d’Arnaud, Singleton), guys teetering between disappointment and stud (Drabek, Gose), change-of-scenery guys who worked out (Mayberry) and didn’t (Golson), and young kids about whom we still have plenty to learn. The ripples from this series of trades will be felt for the next decade or so. I hope this has shown you how volatile even the most highly regarded prospects can be and changes, for the better, the way you perceive them.

Eric Longenhagen

Eric Longenhagen

Eric Longenhagen is a 22 year old male who hails from the tiny Pennsylvania town of Catasauqua. He frequents minor league baseball games to scout baseball players and he one day hopes to be paid to do so.

Website – More Posts

Pierre Can Still Steal Bases- Phils Add Speed To Power Bench

Phillies ink Pierre to Minor League deal

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

In a small but potentially significant move, the Phillies signed speedy Juan Pierre to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Friday.

Juan Pierre

Pierre, 34, batted .279 as the everyday leadoff hitter and left fielder for the White Sox last season. He stole 27 bases and was thrown out 17 times, but he did steal 68 bags for Chicago in 2010.

The Phils allowed Raul Ibanez to depart as a free agent this offseason, and it appeared at the outset that John Mayberry Jr. would inherit that spot in left field based on the fact that he batted .309 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in his last 149 at-bats of the regular season.

English: White Sox 3rd base coach with player .

Mayberry still has the inside track, but he also faces significant competition for playing time.

While talented-but-raw 24-year-old Domonic Brown may well get a full season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley to polish his skills, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently that he could still play his way onto the big league roster with an impressive spring.

Domonic Brown

Amaro also signed veteran Laynce Nix, who has been used primarily against right-handed pitching throughout his career.

The addition of Pierre adds another wrinkle to the situation and potentially gives manager Charlie Manuel another option in left.

 

Pierre has 554 career stolen bases, the most of any active player, and ranks 26th on the all-time list, three behind Davey Lopes. In the last 11 years, Pierre has 1,958 hits, fifth most among all players.

“He’s not the same blazer he was with Florida and Los Angeles, but we think he can provide something we were grossly lacking on our bench last year — speed,” Amaro said. “We did not sign him to be our everyday left fielder. The bulk of the time will go to John Maybery and Laynce Nix, and, of course, Dom Bown is still in the picture.

“But we’ll put [Pierre] in the mix and see what happens. We view him as a guy who can give us another element. He can be a very useful guy.”

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: What are the club’s plans for Brown?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers Phils fans’ questions

By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
What on earth are the Phillies going to do with Domonic Brown? They have John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix in left field, Shane Victorino in center field and Hunter Pence in right field. Where’s the space for Brown? — Brett L., Broomall, Pa.
Domonic Brown

There is none, unless there is an injury or Mayberry and Nix don’t perform. Unless things change, Brown is expected to play the 2012 season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he will be looking to regain confidence and learning to play left field.

Nothing really has gone smoothly with Brown the past couple of seasons. The Phillies admittedly erred in the way they have handled him (bringing him up in 2010, only to spend most of the second half of the season sitting on the bench).

Brown performed poorly in winter ball following that season and started slowly in Spring Training 2011 before breaking his hand. He was playing great with Lehigh Valley early last season, when the Phils called him up (after saying they didn’t think he was ready). He did OK, relatively speaking, but once the Phillies acquired Pence and optioned Brown to Lehigh Valley, he struggled.

The Phils are hoping a full season in the Minors will get Brown back on track. Maybe it will, but if Mayberry and Nix perform well in left, I would think Brown could be trade bait at some point.

If Ryan Madson does not come back, where do you think he will sign and why are the Phillies disinterested in him? — Daniel S., Pinellas Park, Fla.

Ryan Madson signing autographs before the Marc...

Who said they’re disinterested in Madson? I’m sure general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. would love to have Madson as his setup man, but would Madson come back to set up for Jonathan Papelbon? If I’m Madson, I’m not sure I would. But if Madson can’t get a closer job at closer money, maybe he would come back to a place he’s familiar and set up before hitting the market again next offseason. But I’m betting Madson will take his services elsewhere before Spring Training.

Is Chase Utley healthy this year? — Janet X., Harrisburg, Pa.

Chase Utley

The Phillies said late last season that Utley, who had knee issues last year, will be on a different offseason training program that should allow him to strengthen his legs without causing the tendinitis that forced him to miss the first couple of months of the 2011 season. They said that lack of strength in his lower half contributed to his lack of pop at the plate. Will he be the old Utley in 2012, one of the best offensive performers in the game? I’m not sure, but they certainly need him to play much better than he did last season.

How can you argue the Phillies can only get younger at two positions when they have an aging and oft-injured third baseman? — Bob P., Renovo, Pa.

Got lots of questions over the past week about third base, the David Wright rumors, how much they can expect to get from Polanco. Those are good questions, but some of the questions are almost like, “What’s the Phillies’ problem? Why won’t they get David Wright?” Like it were easy. Like Amaro can get Wright (or another stud third baseman) by just snapping his fingers. The Phils would love Wright at third base, but it’s not going to happen right now. The club has said Polanco should be healthy entering the season. If he is, he’s a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman than hits better than .300. That’s not exactly chopped liver.

Do you think the Phillies will hit a wall and not win the National League East? — Steven B., Cheltenham, Pa.

English: John Mayberry, Jr. of the Philadelphi...

The NL East has improved, but I still think the Phils will] win their sixth straight division title. If everybody is healthy, of course. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will win their fair share of games. The offense, which has flopped the previous two postseasons, has been productive during the season. I just don’t see how anybody could catch them.

The bench seems to have gained some much needed depth this year. What impact will this have on the 2012 Phillies? — Zack K., Clarks Summit, Pa.

Laynce Nix

It gives manager Charlie Manuel more options. If Polanco misses time, Manuel can play Ty Wigginton at third instead of Michael Martinez. When Ryan Howard is out, the Phillies can play Mayberry, Nix, Wigginton or even Jim Thome. They should be able to handle injuries a little better than they have in the past, while not sacrificing as much offense in the process.

Do you see any offensive options the Phillies could pursue at the Trade Deadline, like David Wright or a left fielder? — Jim D., Tabernacle, N.J.

Whoa. We’re already looking at the Trade Deadline? It’s a long way from July 31. Like I mentioned above, I’ve gotten lots of questions about third base, left field, etc. There were similar questions last year at this time about right field, and how the Phillies were going to replace Jayson Werth. The Phils decided they would give Ben Francisco, Brown and Mayberry a shot. If it worked, great. If not, then they could always find somebody else.

I think the same holds true this year. Why not see if Polanco can stay healthy? Why not see if Mayberry and Nix can platoon in left field? If they can’t, they can always try to find somebody else. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be smart emptying the farm system for something that might not happen (Polanco staying healthy, etc.). It would be smarter to see how they do, then reassess midseason.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.