Phillies top prospect Dominic Brown was enjoying his finest pro season before being sidelined with a fractured finger on his right hand.
Brown, 21, was batting .299/.379/.540 with nine home runs (matching his total from last season) through 51 games for high Class A Clearwater when he took a pitch off of his right hand on June 8. The injury has forced him out of the lineup and out of last weekend’s Florida State League all-star game.
“I am going to the doctors again to check up and he’ll let me know when I can come back. It will probably be another week," Brown said. "I hope another week because the rehab process is getting better and it (the finger) is getting stronger (and) I’m drinking a lot of milk.”
The Phillies wanted to see Brown hit for more power this season, and he has delivered in a big way. He ranks fourth in slugging in the pitcher-friendly FSL, boosting the percentage 123 points from 2008 to 2009. He is tied for second in the league in home runs.
“I’ve always had pretty good power in batting practice,” Brown said. “I’m just getting the games in and I’m getting stronger day by day. I haven’t really been working to hit any home runs. I’m just working on getting better and the power is just coming.”
Brown cites some minor mechanical adjustments he made to his swing prior to this season.
“I’m not lunging on my front foot and I’m seeing the ball and the letting the ball travel and letting it get deep,” Brown said. “Instead of going out and trying to get the ball I’m waiting back and letting the ball come to me.”
The Phillies are hardly surprised by Brown’s development after watching Brown hit .291/.382/.417 with 35 extra-base hits and 22 steals in 114 games with low Class A Lakewood last season.
“It’s normal progression for a fantastic athlete,” assistant general manager of player development and scouting Chuck LaMar said.. “The raw power has always been there. He’s starting to grow into that game power.”
HE’S DRIVING THAT TRAIN
Dominic Brown will turn 21 in September and the Phillies top prospect could move quickly through their system after he returns from injury. A promotion to Double-A Reading by the end of the season may be in the cards.
“Whenever I’m ready, I’m pretty sure the Phillies are going to know,” Brown said. “I’m just going off of what they say. My progression is going well and that’s all I’m worried about.”
And the Phillies are going to let Brown’s performance on the field dictate how quickly he moves.
“We will never say that an athlete like Dominic will go year to year through the minors,” LaMar said. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he gets promoted . . . We don’t like predicting the pace a player moves up through the system. More times than not they drive that train themselves.”
Not bad for a player who wasn’t sure baseball was his best sport coming out of high school.
Brown starred in football and baseball at Redan (Ga.) High. His sheer athleticism led him to commit to become a two-sport player in football as a wide receiver and as an outfielder in baseball at Miami. But he chose to just focus on baseball and he’s never looked back.
“When football season comes along it’s so competitive, same thing with basketball season, that I want to play, but baseball is my first love so it’s not really a big deal,” Brown said. “I put football on in the season and I think I could have been doing that, but it’s not a big deal at all. I love what I’m doing and I don’t have any doubts or any regrets on the decision I made.”
The Phillies selected Brown in the 20th round of the 2006 draft and signed him for $200,000 after he failed to obtain a standardized test score to attend Miami.
“I went through a lot of things during my senior year (of high school),” Brown said. “(The test score) just made me tougher and a better person. That’s the only thing I can think. I work hard every day because of it. It’s finally starting to pay off and it feels real well.”
The Phillies are happy with their decision to go well-above slot to sign Brown.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” LaMar said. “We’re very lucky to have him.”