In these waning days of the trade deadline, I can't help but wonder how difficult life might be for a young prospect who hears his named getting bandied about in trade talks. I'd imagine that being under constant scrutiny from the coaches, peers, and fans, while having to simultaneously hear your name brought up as the centerpiece for this or that player is not at all an easy thing to go through, given how fluid your existence is in the eyes of those who are pulling the strings. One day, you could be manning right field for the best team in the Majors, and the next day, you could be sent down to the Triple-A affiliate for a club looking to rebuild, while your former team has its eyes on October.
That sort of stress really can't be easy to deal with. And the fact that those types of rumors are so readily available and easily accessed thanks to the internet, it’s amazing if one can go an entire day without hearing his name tossed about as a cog in a rumored three-team deal.
And for that reason, I feel bad for Domonic Brown, the Phillies right fielding super prospect who has, in the eyes of some, not lived up to the monstrous expectations cast upon him, dure partially to blogs just like this one. You see, Brown has some awfully big shoes to fill. Not only is he being touted as the future of the franchise, but it's no small task to replace the offensive production of the erstwhile Jayson Werth – a task that is made even more challenging in light of the fact that he is having to do so on a team that is expected to win the World Series.
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Expectations aside, life is rarely easy for a young prospect who has less than one season under his belt, something that Brown can attest to -- as he has not exactly set the world on fire since his call up last summer. Not his fault, really. After all, he's a young kid who was taken in the late rounds of the draft as a bit of a project -- raw talent, lots of tools, but not polished or MLB-ready like Evan Longoria or Jason Heyward. He needed work. He still does. But as David Murphy from The Daily News points out,
it's not terribly uncommon for a young player to need to buff out the dents and scratches:
Brown is hitting .249 with a .338 on-base percentage, .405 slugging percentage, five home runs, 17 RBI and 26 runs in 51 games. In 86 career games, his numbers are .238/.317/.391 with seven home runs, 30 RBI, 34 runs and 54 strikeouts in 268 plate appearances.
But slow starts are nothing new for top prospects.
In Chase Utley's first 86 games in the majors, he hit .249 with a .304 on-base percentage, .418 slugging percentage, nine home runs, 39 strikeouts, 51 RBI and 30 runs in 298 plate appearances. He also faced some of the same defensive questions that Brown does. And he was 25 years old.
You see, most 23-year-olds are in college or recently graduated, not knowing what they want to do with their lives...or not in college at all, living on microwave noodles and delivering pizzas in between watching reruns of “Firefly.” If only we were all so lucky.
But that life of Riley is not for Brown, who is eschewing a carefree and easy going existence in exchange for the stress that comes along with being a a 23-year-old athlete who is holding his own at the highest possible level of his profession.
He isn't doing what Heyward did last year, or what Ryan Howard did in his rookie season, but those freshman campaigns come along only so often, and it’s unrealistic for the denizens of the Philadelphia area and beyond to expect immediate greatness from a player who, only a few years ago, was more suited to be a wide receiver than a right fielder.
Despite what the box score says, Dom Brown is succeeding. He isn’t belting homeruns with reckless abandon or turning himself into a latter day Daryl Strawberry, but he doesn’t need to just yet. Instead, he is getting his looks in, getting his timing down, and working out all the kinks that come along with having to adjust your play to the Major League level. And given the fact that he is among the team leaders in pitchers per plate appearance and that he is getting on base at a better than .400 clip this month, I’d say that he is coming along just fine.
Dom Brown is going to be just fine, despite the carrying-on that has prematurely taken place in light of the Phillies’ supposed need for another bat. The future is right in front of us and it’s high time he gets recognized and appreciated, because the time will come in the not too distant future when Brown's spindly legs and devastating swing will be the most exciting thing to watch in Philadelphia.