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.”


Coronation Delayed For Unknown Kingdom, Thy Prince Shall Be No Pauper

Prince stretching free agency into new territory

Prized first baseman heading toward ‘latest’ big signing ever

By Tom Singer / | 01/11/12 10:00 AM EST

Agent Scott Boras continues to pound the market for his prime client, Prince Fielder, and he may yet achieve his goal of a record deal for the free-agent first baseman.

English: Prince Fielder doing pre-game stretch...

Perhaps not financially, although there is a very good reason for believing that Boras is angling for a deal worth something like $24.7 million annually: Albert Pujols’ recent 10-year agreement with the Angels breaks down to about $24.6 million a year.

Fielder may not get there, but with the meticulous way it’s going, he remains likely to sign the latest mega-deal in baseball history.

Elite players and their bounties normally do not take this long to find each other. The clock is ticking, and with each gong, Fielder slides past someone else on this timeline.

On Tuesday, Fielder passed Carlos Beltran, who agreed to his seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets on Jan. 10, 2005.

If he remains unsigned through Wednesday, Fielder would jump Vladimir Guerrero, who struck his five-year, $70 million deal with the Angels on Jan. 11, 2004.

Beyond that, there would be only one more remaining target date: Jan. 26, the day in 2005 on which Carlos Delgado ended a long free agency by signing a four-year, $52 million pact with the Marlins.

Certainly, free-agent signings regularly occur up to and even through Spring Training. But the leading men are usually all accounted for long before the trucks head to Arizona and Florida.

Cropped version of Prince Fielder (929557698).jpg

A year ago, the latest prominent free-agent agreement occurred on Jan. 5, between the Rangers and Adrian Beltre, also a Boras client (another of his guys, Jayson Werth, was first out of the gate on Dec. 6, when he signed with the Nationals).

Here are timelines of the top free-agent deals of the previous eight offseasons.

• 2010-11: Werth (Dec. 6), Carl Crawford, Red Sox (Dec. 11); Cliff Lee, Phillies (Dec. 14); Beltre (Jan. 5).

• 2009-10: John Lackey, Red Sox (Dec. 16); Matt Holliday, Cardinals (Jan. 5); Jason Bay, Mets (Jan. 5).

• 2008-09: CC Sabathia, Yankees (Dec. 11); A.J. Burnett, Yankees (Dec. 12); Mark Teixeira, Yankees (Dec. 23).

• 2007-08: Torii Hunter, Angels (Nov. 23); Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (Dec. 13); Aaron Rowand, Giants (Dec. 13).

• 2006-07: Alfonso Soriano, Cubs (Nov. 21); Carlos Lee, Astros (Nov. 27); Barry Zito, Giants (Dec. 29).

• 2005-06: B.J. Ryan, Blue Jays (Nov. 26); Rafael Furcal, Dodgers (Dec. 7); Burnett, Blue Jays (Dec. 7); Johnny Damon, Yankees (Dec. 21).

• 2004-05: Beltran (Jan. 10); Pedro Martinez, Mets (Dec. 14); Delgado.

• 2003-04: Gary Sheffield, Yankees (Dec. 1); Bartolo Colon, Angels (Dec. 9); Miguel Tejada, Orioles (Dec. 16); Guerrero (Jan. 11).

Of the other nine-figure deals in history, none were struck beyond December. They range from Dec. 9 (Mike Hampton, with the Rockies in 2000) to Dec. 21 (Kevin Brown, with the Dodgers in 1998).

Tom Singer is a national reporter for Follow @Tom_Singer on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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2012 NL East Preview: Fan’s Opinion NL East Preview

By Andrew Mindzak

With 2011 now behind us, it’s time to look forward to the 2012 MLB season. Some teams have been busy this winter, but others have been rather quiet. Here is a list of what teams in the NL East need in order to contend in 2012.

If your outfield had Jayson Werth, Michael Morse,
and Bryce Harper, you’d be a contender too.
Andrew Mindzak
Gulf Coast League Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies The Phillies had the best record in all of baseball during 2011 as they went 102-60 before getting knocked out by the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. Whatever you do, don’t blame their pitching for their early exit. Philadelphia posted a league best 3.02 team ERA, which is beyond ridiculous. Their pitching was decent enough to beat St. Louis, but their offense couldn’t come up with the clutch hits. The team hit .226 in the playoffs where players like Ryan Howard (.105 playoff average), Placido Polanco (.105), and normally clutch Carlos Ruiz (.059) came up short in October. Philadelphia did pick up closer Jonathan Papelbon, but I’m not sure how good of a move that was. If they can get a good outfield bat and figure out how to manufacture runs, they should be back in the World Series.

Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves The Braves had a historic late season collapse and missed the playoffs on the last day of the season. Overall though, they had a good season and have a very promising future. The main question for Atlanta, as it has been in the past, well forever, is will they get that big bat for the middle of the lineup. Freddie Freeman had a great rookie year, Dan Uggla had a killer second half, and Brian McCann had a good year while Tim Hudson held down the starting rotation (and still remains to be one of the most underrated players in the game), but they still need another bat to produce offense.

Washington Nationals The Nationals had a good season as they finished in third with a respectable 80-81 record. I fully expect Washington to contend for the wildcard in 2012 thanks to their pitching. After acquiring Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics, they have a formidable rotation with a healthy Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan, and Jordan Zimmermann. Their bullpen is set with Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen on the back end. With a healthy Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, they should put up runs, and aren’t you interested to see how Bryce Harper will do this year?

mets logo

mets logo

New York Mets Surprisingly they will actually field a team this year. Unfortunately for them, David Wright can’t play all nine positions. If this team even sniffs .500, I will be majorly surprised. Jason Bay has been a joke since coming over as a free agent and it would be a treat for New York if he can even earn half of his salary.

Miami Marlins What an offseason for the Marlins. New name, new stadium, new uniforms, new manager, new starting pitcher, new shortstop, and new closer. Did I miss anything? Oh yea, they are still the Marlins. If Jose Reyes AND Hanley Ramirez can stay healthy, this team can be scary, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. Mike Stanton is a monster at the plate. As for their rotation, they will need Josh Johnson to stay off the DL, but besides him and Buehrle, no one scares me on their staff.

Currently, I cover the Orioles for the Baltimore Guide along with being addicted to the entire Major Leagues as well as the NFL. Follow me on Twitter here, or on Facebook here.