News broke on Monday afternoon that the Philadelphia Phillies had outrighted outfielder Domonic Brown to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This could potentially end his time with the Phillies organization. Since Brown has more than three years of big league experience time, he has the right to refuse an outright assignment and choose free agency instead.
It wasn't long ago that Brown was considered one of the most can't-miss prospects in all of baseball. In Baseball America's 2010 midseason top prospect update they ranked the then-23-year-old as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball -- above Mike Trout(!!!). Brown made his big league debut a few weeks later, and spent the next two seasons splitting time between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley with limited success.
In 2013 Brown broke out, clubbing 27 home runs and recording an impressive .272/.324/.494 slash line. He made his first--and only--All-Star appearance and appeared to finally be making good on the promise of big power he showed in his rise through the minor league ranks. He was unable to sustain that performance though. The cracks began to show when he hit just four of those 27 dingers after the break. The following season he hit just 10 home runs -- posting a dismal .634 OPS. Then he started the 2015 season at Triple-A before being recalled in June.
Naturally whenever a high-profile young player becomes immediately available, a team in a rebuilding mode like the Brewers are going to come up as a potential landing spot.
There's some recent precedent for a change of scenery helping a seemingly failed prospect breakout. When the Astros gave up on J.D. Martinez after the 2013 season the Tigers scooped him up and he's rewarded them handsomely, slamming 61 home runs with an .893 OPS and recording 9.0 fWAR over two seasons.
That's the exception, not the rule, and certainly not the expectation for Brown any longer. The 28-year-old had a 19.8% HR/FB rate during his breakout 2013 year, but he's been under 10% for the rest of his big league career, and his quality of contact numbers have been trending downward as well.
Ultimately I would be somewhat surprised if Milwaukee ended up signing Brown -- though I'm certain they'll kick the tires -- because there isn't a lot of precedent for the Brewers doing that sort of thing. Of course, with a new front office regime we could see the team start to go in another direction. David Stearns will certainly remember the sting of letting J.D. Martinez go for nothing. Acquiring Brown would also further clutter an already crowded corner outfield situation with Domingo Santana, Khris Davis and Ryan Braun all demanding at bats. However if the price is right there's very little downside to giving Brown a shot to win a roster spot next spring.