After a weak spring, Domonic Brown wound up back at Lehigh Valley and admitted that with his performance in the Grapefruit League, it was difficult for him to really argue with the decision. Plus, the Phillies wanted Brown to improve on his defensive prowess in left field. So, after 18 games at Lehigh Valley, it's time to take a look at what progress Brown is making both at the plate and in left field.
At the plate, Brown got off to a horrible start. After the first week of the season, Brown was hitting .208 and had struck out six times in 24 at-bats. Since then though, Brown has started to pound the ball and has hit .297 to up his season average to .262, but he has yet to go deep. "He's hit some balls hard and has hit a few that in warmer weather would be gone," said Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg. The manager pointed out that on a recent road trip to Buffalo and Rochester, Lehigh Valley was playing in near freezing temperatures and there weren't many players going deep in those games. As a team, the IronPigs have just eight home runs on the season. As for their home field of Coca-Cola Park, the ball definitely does carry better in warmer weather.
While it's worth watching what Brown does at the plate after his less than super-prospect stats that he's put up the past couple of seasons, the big question has been how Brown would play in left field.
"I'm getting more comfortable out there everyday," said Brown. "I've put in a lot of work and spent some time with Andy [Abad] and things are starting to click better for me in left field." Abad is the new outfield coordinator for the Phillies and spent some time with the IronPigs during their last homestand. There's no doubt that Brown is looking more comfortable in left field, although there is still a tendency to hold your breath for just a little when a ball is hit his way. The real defensive difference with Brown now is that instead of balls that he should catch, he just turns them into an adventure. The real upside is that he has also made some outstanding plays, including a sliding catch on the warning track that saved a couple of runs in their series opener with Buffalo Monday night.
"It really is different in left field than in right field. The ball hooks differently and what I need to be able to do is not have to think about how to react," said Brown. "In right field, I'm so familiar with how to play there, it's just instinct and reaction. I'm not quite at that comfort level in left field yet, but I'm getting there."
Overall, things are going well for Brown at Lehigh Valley this season, but if you're thinking that he might be close to getting a call to the big club, it's probably not going to happen; at least not right now. To put Brown into a situation where he was surrounded by struggling hitters and everyone is looking at him to be the big run producer simply wouldn't be smart. Had Hunter Pence gotten bad news from his MRI, the Phillies would have had a tough decision to make, but for the benefit of all, Pence returned to the Phillies lineup after missing just one game with a sore left shoulder.
The best news on Brown is that he is progressing. For now, that's all the Phillies are looking for him to do.
Domonic Brown's 2012 Stats