Normally I write about prospects here at Fake Teams, but today I am going to take a crack at profiling a Major League player that many consider to be a failed prospect, Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies. Now, yes, even the best prospects sometimes fail, but calling Brown "failed" seems a bit premature. Entering his age-25 season, I think Brown offers fantasy players a special kind of upside - that of a post-hype sleeper.
Turn the pages of the calendar back just two years to 2011, and Domonic Brown was considered one of the top young talents in the entire game. He was coming off a 2010 season in in which he hit .327/.391/.589 with 22 home runs and 17 steals in the Minor Leagues before reaching the Majors in September. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus rated him the 4th best prospect in baseball, and ESPN's Keith Law ranked Brown 3rd, behind only Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Most pegged him for stardom, and many expected him to deliver on that promise immediately. Now back in the present, we know that has not been the case. Instead Brown has failed to solidify his status as a Major League regular, hitting a paltry .236/.315/.388 in Philadelphia. He enters this season fighting for playing time amongst Laynce Nix, John Mayberry Jr., Darin Ruf, and Delmon Young (once he returns from an ankle injury).
And Bingo! we have found an opportunity for a sleeper. Read those names again, and I think you will agree that the Phillies would be foolish not to give Brown an opportunity to play every day. Not only does he have the physical tools to be a star, but he also has shown some potential at the Major League level. Despite his perceived struggles, Brown has basically been an average MLB player over the past two seasons, posting a 96 wRC+ (100 is league average). Over the same two seasons, Brown has finished with respectable results for isolated power (.154), walks (10.9%), and strikeouts (16.4%). One of the largest driving factors behind his inability to hit for average has been a low BABIP (career .269), which doesn't match up to his strong career line drive rate (19.7%). Obviously, the results don't match the early scouting reports on Brown, but he has been much better up to this point than most people realize.
Another positive is that he also is off to a torrid start this spring, hitting .348/.500/.783 with 3 home runs in 10 games. I know, I know, spring stats don't mean anything, and it's an extremely small sample size, but I have two counter points to those arguments. First, when a player is competing for a job, spring stats absolutely do matter. Secondly, watch this home run from last week and tell me not to get excited about Dom Brown.
My first post on Fake Teams was in regards to how I think the term "sleeper" doesn't apply in Fantasy Baseball anymore. Everyone has unbelievable amounts of information at their disposal, making it quite difficult to find a player that is not on other owners' radars. This year though, Domonic Brown actually represents that opportunity. Taking a look at current ADP reports, Brown is being selected 79th among OF at Mock Draft Central and 80th at ESPN. On average, Lucas Duda and Raul Ibanez are being selected before Brown. I mean c'mon people. Late in drafts and auctions the best strategy is almost always to take high-upside gambles, hoping to strike it rich with at least one player. What better bet is there than a former top-5 prospect who is crushing in spring training? I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes the season with a .270 average, 18-20 home runs, and 10-15 steals, making him one of the biggest bargains in mixed leagues. And I fully expect plenty of people to jump back on the bandwagon next spring, labeling him a more conventional sleeper who is poised to take an even bigger step forward in 2014.
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