Domonic Brown Good News/Bad News

Everybody’s aware that, by and large, spring-training results are meaningless. Not everybody always acts like it, but everybody gets it, on some level. The stats don’t really matter, and the wins and losses don’t really matter. But spring training can still serve some purposes, for us as fans. As we discussed yesterday, spring training can generate highlights as good or almost as good as the highlights generated during the regular season. That is, of plays in isolation, separated from context. And there’s also some analysis that can be done, if done carefully. Previously, Michael Saunders never demonstrated any ability to hit to the opposite field or cover the outer half of the plate. Between 2011 and 2012, he re-worked his swing, and in spring 2012, he covered the other half of the plate. It was promising, and, sure enough, Saunders had a breakthrough season. Spring training isn’t entirely devoid of substance.

Which brings us to the matter of Domonic Brown, on Tuesday, February 26. On this Tuesday, Brown generated a highlight, and he also did something maybe worth talking about for analytical purposes. Behold, what Domonic Brown did to a thrown pitch by a member of the Yankees organization:

That is a big home run, and in the Phillies’ dugout, you can see the coaches acknowledge that it was a big home run. Brown, in a way, is fighting for a job, as he’s not being guaranteed a regular gig in a Philadelphia corner. Somewhat inexplicably, he’ll face competition from Delmon Young, but Brown is a young player who used to be a tippy-top prospect so he’s got a lot of the fans on his side. Phillies fans will be encouraged to see anything and everything that Brown does well on a playing field. They’re all waiting for Brown to take the next step, and so maybe this is a sign. Let’s get into the good news and the bad news.

Good news
Domonic Brown hit a home run. What’s more, he hit a home run to center field. What’s more, he hit a home run over the batter’s eye in center field. The fence is measured at 401 feet away from home plate. The batter’s eye is something like 25 feet tall, give or take a little bit. That’s a mammoth home run, captured by this screengrab:

brown1

That’s a home run you can’t really fake. You’re either capable of clearing the batter’s eye in dead center field, or you’re not. Brown cleared it, which is a wonderful sign after a few years of people wondering about his power. Used to be that Brown was supposed to develop into a guy who could hit for power and average. He’s the owner of a dozen big-league home runs, but this is the sort of strength that can get you re-noticed and re-evaluated. Brown’s goal in camp — the best he can do — is to be impressive. It’s impressive to hit ordinary dingers, but it’s extra impressive to hit extraordinary dingers, and so this could be a good sign with regard to where Domonic Brown is as a player at the present day.

Bad news
After the home run, the broadcasters acknowledge that the wind has been swirling, and of course strong winds can do funny things to fly balls. There’s no question that Brown hit the ball solidly, but maybe it carried for reasons other than its own velocity and spin; maybe the wind allowed the ball to sail to an area to which it wouldn’t have sailed were it not for the wind. Though Domonic Brown cleared the dead-center batter’s eye, maybe it wasn’t just Domonic Brown who did it. Maybe the ESPN Home Run Tracker would make this home run out to be an awful lot more modest.

Good news
Observe the American flag during the baseball’s flight:

brown2

Sure enough, the wind was blowing, but the wind wasn’t blowing out. It was blowing to the right, and it wasn’t the horizontal angle that made Brown’s moonshot a moonshot. Can we eliminate the wind as a variable? No, we cannot, but we have reason to believe this was pretty much all about Brown’s strength.

Bad news
The pitcher on the mound for the Yankees wears number 95. Good players in spring training don’t wear number 95, and our hero in question is one Zach Nuding. Nuding hasn’t pitched above single-A, and a few years ago he was a 30th-round draft pick. He’s not a top prospect and he hasn’t missed bats. This is one of the problems with spring-training performance analysis — the things that happen in the later innings often don’t happen against big-league baseball players. Who cares what Brown can do against a single-A starting pitcher? Brown isn’t being held back by his inability to hit single-A pitchers. You don’t see a lot of single-A pitchers in the major leagues.

Good news
So what about the identity of the pitcher? That matters, generally, but specifically, what matters is the quality of the pitch. An unfamiliar or lesser talented pitcher will just throw good pitches less often than a good pitcher, but it’s not like a single-A pitcher can’t throw good pitches. Nuding is a big guy and his fastball gets into the mid-90s. It was a Nuding fastball that Brown hit out. Maybe the pitch wasn’t bad. Maybe it was a big-league-caliber pitch thrown by a non-big-league-caliber pitcher. Additionally, it was a home run with two strikes, which is impressive. But, yeah, maybe the pitch was fine, and Brown applied a better swing.

Bad news
brown3

Two batters later, Nuding allowed a double to Cody Asche. One batter later, Nuding allowed a homer to Tommy Joseph. It wasn’t a great inning for Zach Nuding, because Zach Nuding isn’t great. Brown destroyed a fastball in just about the very center of the zone. That’s right where Brown would’ve wanted it.

Our conclusion is that Domonic Brown did a good thing, made somewhat less impressive by the identity of the opposition at the time. But still, for anyone wondering about Brown’s power, it’s still in there, which he proved on Tuesday. Charlie Manuel spoke highly of him after the game, and if these are the early signs of Brown turning the corner, then Phillies fans could be in for something special, and for a lot less Delmon Young than they’ve feared. It’s way too early to say that Domonic Brown is going to take a leap forward, but it’s not too early to talk about it. A home run like this has a way of getting people talking.

We hoped you liked reading Domonic Brown Good News/Bad News by Jeff Sullivan!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

newest oldest most voted
Souled0ut1
Guest
Souled0ut1

Domonic Brown started in Left field today, whereas Delmon Young is targeted to start in Right field. The more likely scenario is that Darin Ruf is competing against Domonic Brown for the Left field starting job.

Good News: See Domonic Brown’s 2011 at bat against Justin Verlander while Brown wore number 78 on his jersey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiA2kQf6vXs

NEPP
Guest
NEPP

Delmon Young will be lucky to be back by the AS Break so it’ll likely be a moot point anyway. He had micro fracture surgery on his ankle in November. The recovery time for that surgery is closer to 9 months than the 6 they suggested when they signed him. He’s behind in his rehab anyway from a report about 10 days ago.

Souled0ut1
Guest
Souled0ut1

It certainly is doubtful we’ll see him in April, so there’s a chance the Phillies break camp with Brown and Ruf in the corner outfield. Brown can play all three outfield positions, and was originally a Center fielder. The point of my original comment however is that it looks like Brown is no longer competing against Young, but rather Ruf is going to have to ultimately overtake Young.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP

I kinda have the feeling that Young will pull a Tartabull and pretty much disappear. Ruf might have a shot to split time with Mayberry in LF while Brown handles RF going into April.

Its definitely not ideal but they dont have a lot of options right now. I’d imagine Nix will get a look at a platoon spot too.

LTG
Guest
LTG

Brown is not an MLB CF. And the Phillies have shown no interest in trying him there in MLB even when they didn’t really have a CF last season after they traded Vic.