Domonic Brown has fallen greatly, there's no denying that. Not only has he not hit the status that most people around baseball would have thought he'd reached by now, many lower ranked prospects are not only in the majors, but prospering. It seems like every spring, Brown's value falls lower and lower.
Brown is headed back to Lehigh Valley to start the season, ostensibly because he needs to learn how to play left field. Once again, Brown missed on an opportunity to win an everyday job with the Phillies, this spring in part to his defensive struggles in left and also, in large part, to the fact that he was once again hobbled by injuries.
Yes, with Ryan Howard on the DL to start the season and John Mayberry Jr. taking his spot at first base for most games, there was a wide open spot for Brown to grab in left field. The offense was there. The defense wasn't.
In fact, Brown's first injury of the spring - a sprained thumb - was suffered when he took a bad route to a ball and had to dive in an attempt to save the play. All along, there were similar plays, but Brown just didn't get hurt on them. The miscues ran the gambit from bad routes, to dropped balls, to bad throws and Brown showed that he could well be a long way from learning to play left field.
After recuperating from the bad thumb, Brown then developed a stiff neck on a bus ride to Kissimmee, Florida and that cost him a week of games.
Right now, the best chance for Brown might be a trade to a team where he wouldn't need to learn left field. A place where he could slide into his normal position in right field and become a major leaguer once and for all. The odds are that if he was faced with that situation, he could very well succeed.
For their part, the Phillies have to decide if Brown really can learn to play left field. Some players just can't make a move, even one as seemingly simple as switching from right to left field. Of course, this spring, we've seen Galvis shift effortlessly from shortstop to second base and he's going to be on the opening day roster because of that smooth transition. Had Brown been able to make a transition anywhere near as smoothly as Galvis did, he would likely still have a shot at being the opening day left fielder, even with the time that he lost in camp this spring.
The Phillies also have to consider exactly whether or not they want to trade Brown or continue attempting to develop him. His value is nowhere near where it was in the past, but he would still bring a decent return considering that his bat has looked good and it appears that he has his offensive struggles worked down to a minimum.
There are still a lot of teams that would have a strong interest in Brown, but not at the price that he would have commanded at his peek. But the truth is that Brown is still a valuable commodity and if he could just be left alone to play right field, he could well get right back to the value that he had a couple of springs ago. Even though switching to left field may not seem like such a tough thing to do, it's not at all easy, and Brown simply might not have the skill set to make the move. That's something that the Phillies have to consider and if that's the case, his value to them has just dropped considerably. Odds are that Hunter Pence isn't going anywhere for a long time, so right field just isn't an option for Brown in Philadelphia.
Before Brown goes to Lehigh Valley and further exposes his warts as a left fielder, the Phillies might be wise to consider their options. If he's not going to be able to learn the position, they should either deal him now or just admit defeat and move him back to right field, where it's more likely that Brown could redevelop his reputation and inflate his trade value.
Keep in mind that the Phillies are now using their last option on Brown, so next spring, he either sticks with the big league club or it all hits the fan. Brown may find himself shuttling back-and-forth between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley this season, but next season a definitive decision will have to be made on Mr. Brown.