From ages 22-24, Player A hit .236 with a .315 on-base percentage and .388 slugging percentage in 492 plate appearances.
In the same age range, Player B hit .239/.309/.411.
Player C hit .226/.286/.373.
Player D batted .268/.325/.405.
Player E hit .222/.326/.393.
Player F rounded out the list with a .257/.295/.388 triple-slash line.
All had a similar number of plate appearances.
When you look at the numbers of the above mystery players, you likely draw two conclusions: that the players mentioned are or were slick-fielding middle infielders, and they probably didn’t amount to much, offensively, in their careers.
You’d be wrong about both.
Player A is Domonic Brown, a top-five prospect in the sport as recently as March 2011, who has fallen out of favor both locally and nationally after three mediocre stints with the Phillies.
Brown is entering his age-25 season and, despite his once lofty prospect status, he still doesn’t have a full-time job even in a patchwork Phillies outfield. He’ll need to prove himself in spring training and, if he earns an everyday spot, hit to keep it.
But just because he hasn’t come close to meeting expectations yet doesn’t mean Brown won’t develop into a useful or very good major-league player. Despite coming up from the minors numerous times, Brown hasn’t even had a full season’s worth of trips to the plate in The Show.
And that’s where Players B, C, D, E and F come into play.
Player B is Miguel Montero, the Diamondbacks’ catcher who has put up stellar offensive numbers for his position the last four years after disappointing in his first three partial season. From ages 22-24, Montero’s batting average was three points higher than Brown’s, his OBP six points lower and his slugging 23 points higher.
Player C is Miguel Tejada, who won AL MVP just four years after his age-24 season. (Well, what we think was his age-24 season.)
Player D is Aaron Rowand, who had a successful career as an everyday centerfielder despite a quiet start.
Player E? A model of consistency, Cliff Floyd. Floyd and Brown have nearly identical numbers from age 22-24, and Floyd proceeded to hit .289 over the next eight seasons with an .885 OPS and yearly averages of 23 homers and 32 doubles.
Finally, Player F is Aubrey Huff, who went on to hit .291 with an .846 OPS and 25 homers per year in the seven seasons following his Dom Brown-like introduction to the majors.
All of these players have in common poor starts to what turned into successful careers. None of their skill sets fall directly in line with Brown’s, but many have pieces of his game. Huff has the lefthanded power. Tejada had the top-10 prospect pedigree. Montero has the uncharacteristic swing. Floyd had the tools.
If Brown can turn into any of them offensively, the Phillies will be thrilled after three stints and no lasting impressions. Montero, Tejada, Rowand, Floyd and Huff were nothing special when they were adjusting to major-league pitching, but each player turned into an integral offensive piece of a playoff team.
The key is to not get too wrapped up in the moment. Brown hasn’t yet seized it, but plenty of players have figured things out after their 25th birthday.