By JAY LeBLANC
July 17, 2008
The same traits that make outfielder Dominic Brown one of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ best prospects could have kept him off the baseball field altogether. As a high schooler in Georgia, he put his 6’ 5” frame and above-average speed to use as a wide receiver and was good enough to score a football scholarship offer from the Miami Hurricanes. Luckily for the Phillies, baseball is Brown’s first love and he opted instead to sign with them for a $200,000 bonus after they selected him in the 20th round of the 2006 draft.
Thus far, Brown has made it abundantly clear that he isn’t just another athlete trying his hand at baseball. He excelled in his first full pro season in 2007 while playing for the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters, hitting .295 with three home runs, 32 RBI and a .356 on-base percentage before earning a late-season promotion to the advanced Class A Clearwater Threshers, for whom he hit .444 with a home run in nine at-bats. Brown displayed an uncanny ability to make contact by fanning just 49 times in 294 at bats and also showed great range and a strong arm in the outfield. Baseball America took notice, ranking him as the Phillies’ No. 6 prospect in the offseason.
Brown is building on last season’s success this year as a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. Through 93 games, he’s hitting for a solid .299 average and ranks third in the South Atlantic League with 109 hits, including 22 doubles and seven home runs. He has whiffed 58 times and has shown improved plate discipline by drawing 45 walks. One thing Brown needs to work on is putting his speed to better use on the basepaths. He’s stolen 16 bases but has also been caught six times after swiping 14 bags in 21 attempts in 2007. I recently had a chance to speak with the 20-year-old:
Q: You were a star wide receiver in high school and you turned down a football scholarship from Miami to sign with the Phillies. How difficult of a decision was that for you, and why did you decide to go the baseball route?
A: How’d you know that? (Laughs) You know, baseball was my first love. Football, I was pretty good at so I was doing it in the offseason - that was about it. It wasn’t really a hard decision at all.
Q: So the lure of the Hurricanes wasn’t that strong?
A: It was a little bit, but, you know, I was a baseball guy. It wasn’t a hard choice for me.
Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you come into an at bat looking for a specific pitch, or do you just react to what’s thrown?
A: Most of the time I react to what’s thrown. When I get in trouble, get long or something, then I get some ground ball outs and flyouts, but usually I just react to what I see.
Q: Your game is still developing but when it’s all said and done, what kind of hitter do you think you’ll be - a leadoff type or a middle-of-the-order guy?
A: I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m a middle-of-the-order guy now, but I don’t know, we’ll see. Hopefully I’ll develop more pop and be No. 3 hitter or a No. 4 hitter later on down the road.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of the game - is it hitting, defense or baserunning?
A: Hitting. I like playing defense also, so it’s pretty close, neck and neck, but hitting.
Q: What are some aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve upon this year?
A: My baserunning, for one - stealing bases. Not trying to do too much at the plate, and getting better routes in the outfield. I’d say that’s about it.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you’ve tried to model yourself after?
A: Not really. My favorite player is Ken Griffey Jr., but that’s about it. I really don’t try to model after him or nothing.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Phillies?
A: I don’t know - that’s up to the guys up front. I don’t know.
Q: Do you feel like you’re making good progress?
A: Yeah, I think I’m making pretty good progress, but whenever they say I’m ready, then I guess I’m ready.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and Mayor of the National Pastime web community. His Prospect Q&A column runs every Monday and Thursday throughout the season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Amanda Rice
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s: Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles.