One of the toughest things to do for a Major League Baseball team is transitioning a player from the Minors to the Majors. Most prospects go through growing pains and may not produce as much as they thought which could lead to the player pressing and the club asking questions. This is especially true about teams that are trying to win because they can only give the players so much slack before taking them out of the lineup. It can really hinder their development.
A situation similar to the one described above is taking place with both the Giants and Phillies. Both have tried to incorporate a top prospect in to their team, a prospect that would help a weakness, but have had seemingly no patience with him. For San Francisco it has been Brandon Belt and for Philadelphia it has been Domonic Brown.
Belt, 24, is a first baseman who can also fake it in an outfield corner and had a great minor league career. Everyone knows that the Giants have problems generating offense and scoring runs, so it was assumed that Belt would come up and provide a spark. In 2011, he split time between Triple A and the MLB and he posted a scorching .422 wOBA for Fresno, but only a .314 in San Fran. His slash line with the latter was only .225/.306/.412 with nine homers, but like I said growing pains are always expected.
This year, Belt has started the year with the parent club as the starting first baseman and in 34 plate appearances has hit .241/.353/.345 and is now no longer seeing regular playing time. Even though it is a very small sample, he was at least getting on base at a good rate, although not hitting for a high average.
They need to give him longer than a few weeks to figure things out if they want him to be a part of the plan long term. If not, they should still be playing him at least to keep his trade value up because I’m sure there are a few executives out there who do think he can be a productive MLB player. What they are doing now is not helping anything.
Dom Brown, who turns 25 in September, is in a pretty similar situation. Brown got his first taste of the bigs back in 2010 and in 70 plate appearances he hit .210/.257/.355, justifying a trip back to Triple A to start 2011. After being very productive in the International League, he came up and hit .245/.333/.391 in 210 plate appearances, which I didn’t think was too bad coming from a player as young as he is.
Now to start 2012, instead of keeping him with the Phillies, he has been sent to Triple A Lehigh Valley to work on playing left field. The Phils can really use his youth and speed, however, with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hurt and the offense having trouble putting runs on the board. It doesn’t look like he’ll be up any time soon as he has only hit to a .301 wOBA and a 79 wRC+. At least Brown is playing everyday, but I don’t think the jerking around has helped his performance or his trade value.
It seems to me that both Belt and Brown could benefit from some consistent playing time at the big league level so they can make adjustments a little easier. If nothing changes in the way these guys are handled soon, I wouldn’t be shocked if they were both traded before the start of the 2013 season as they could each use a change of scenery.