There is no denying that Domonic Brown is a top flight prospect. He's got all of the tools that a player needs to reach the majors and it's just a matter of time until he moves from Reading to Lehigh Valley to his permanent home with the Phillies, or potentially, another major league club if he becomes trade bait nearer the deadline. So just what type of timetable will the Phillies have for Brown and when can fans in the Lehigh Valley expect to see the club's top prospect?
It starts with a look at history. Last season, the Phillies had another big bat and established prospect at Double-A in outfielder Michael Taylor. About this time last season, fans at Lehigh Valley were watching for the arrival of both Taylor, while fans in Reading were awaiting the arrival of Domonic Brown and Kyle Drabek from Clearwater. The move of Drabek would come after he threw a complete game shutout against Charlotte in the Florida State League on May 29 and he would stay there for the rest of the season before being shut down for the last ten days of the season and eventually traded in the deal that brought Roy Halladay to the Phillies during the offseason.
For Brown, the timing was a little longer. On the morning of May 12, 2009, Brown was hitting .327 at Clearwater with six home runs and 26 RBI after playing in 31 games. He would have to play another 35 games before he would finally finish his run in the Florida State League with a .303 average, 11 home runs and 44 RBI on the season and get the call to join the Reading Phillies. Overall, Brown would have 247 at-bats with Clearwater before getting the call to Reading.
Taylor woke up on May 12 of last year with four home runs, 16 RBI and a .300 average with Reading, but he too, would be waiting a while before heading for Lehigh Valley to join the Triple-A club. Actually, it would be almost exactly two more months until Taylor got the call and left Reading to become a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs lineup. His final Double-A numbers for 2009 consisted of 15 home runs, 65 RBI and a .333 average and he had amassed a total of 318 at-bats at the Double-A level - approximately 80 more than Brown has at this point - before reaching the top rung of the minors.
It needs to be noted that while Brown and Taylor were both good prospects, Brown has generally been touted as the better all-around prospect than Taylor was, so the Phillies may not feel the need to give Brown quite as many at-bats with Reading as Taylor required. At his current pace, Brown would be able to get those 80 at-bats in the next month or so and should have numbers good enough to warrant a promotion to Lehigh Valley.
For their part, the Phillies don't feel a need to rush Brown to the majors. Assistant GM Chuck LaMar said last winter that they're going to be patient with Brown and be sure he's ready before they make any moves with him. "We don't just want him to reach the majors. We want to feel like when he reaches the majors, he's completely ready for what he's going to face and won't need to be going back and forth," noted LaMar. "He's a kid who gets it and I think Domonic is okay with waiting a while if it means he's going to be better prepared when he joins the Phillies."
LaMar is right, both in his philosophy of wanting Brown to be ready and also in believing that Brown is willing to take his time and do things right. "I trust them to make the decision at the right time," said Brown about moving up. "I'm confident in myself and I think that I could handle moving up to Triple-A, but I'm going to do what I can to help me succeed and help this team [Reading] succeed."
There are some who believe that the Phillies, having traded top prospects like Drabek and Taylor, not to mention Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson and others, might consider moving Brown at this year's trade deadline if the right move presents itself. It's still a little early to know exactly what the Phillies will be looking for in July, but they have a potentially lengthy list and might need to include Brown in a move if they need to find a quality starter, closer or position player if injuries continue to hit the club. That's something that most players will tell you they don't worry about and Brown is no different.
"You can't think about that. All you can do is play, all that other stuff just gets in the way if you let it become part of the equation," believes Brown.
Right now, Lehigh Valley has a full and competent outfield with four players - John Mayberr Jr., Dewayne Wise, Chris Duffy and Rich Thompson - all splitting the playing time and they've been successful. The outfield contingent is hitting .293 with ten home runs and 56 RBI on the season. One of the reasons that Brown was moved up to Reading last season was that the R-Phils had pushed Taylor up to Triple-A just about two weeks earlier and they needed a power bat in their lineup, especially in the outfield. Also, had the Phillies pushed Brown up before that, it could have been construed as showcasing him for a potential deal, but that theory was ruined by waiting until the deadline had passed to move him along to Reading.
It figures that the Phillies will give Brown more time with Reading before pushing him along, but they also aren't likely to wait too long before they make a move. Brown doesn't need to do much more convincing at the Double-A level and the Phillies will have questions about their major league outfield over the winter, thanks to the pending free agency of Jayson Werth and the climbing age of Raul Ibanez. Look for Brown to arrive at Coca-Cola Park in early to mid-June.