One year later: Do we know if Domonic Brown's good or not yet?

One year later: Do we know if Domonic Brown's good or not yet?

One year ago today, in the midst of what was then a very confusing season for the 25-year-old outfielder, I asked the fateful question: "Is Domonic Brown Having a Good Year or Not?"

Most of the article's commenters seemed to think that he was, at least for a young player in his first season as a full-timer, and Dom would go on to validate those believers by hitting 11 homers in his next 16 games, one of the hottest hitting tears in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies. He won Player of the Month in the NL for May, made the All-Star team in July, and held the NL's home run crown for a short while, looking for all the world like he was becoming the star for the Phillies he had once been projected as.

But Domonic's post-All-Star break numbers were but a pale shadow of his first few months, as he hit his 27th homer of the season on August 14th and failed to go yard again a single time after that. In fact he had just three extra-base hits of any kind in his final 31 games of the season, a worrisome power outage that saw his slugging percentage drop over 40 points. Some wondered if maybe playing a full season for the first time was taking its toll on Dom, if maybe he had just hit the rookie wall a couple years late.

But now we're over a quarter way through the 2014 season, and the power is still out with Domonic Brown. Through 44 games, he has a total of ten extra-base hits, good for a slugging percentage of .317--second-lowest among the team's regulars, behind Ben Revere's historically (and predictably) anemic .294. Going back to last season, he now has just 25 extra-base hits in his last 100 games. (For contrast, Chase Utley has 25 XBHs in just 41 games so far this season.)

This would maybe be forgivable if Dom was contributing in other facets of the game, but power hitting is really just about all he has to recommend him as a player. He doesn't hit for average (a team-low .211 BA), he doesn't walk a ton (12 BBs so far, tied for fifth on the team), and he's lead-footed in left field. He rates as a negative on both sides of the ball, and his -0.7 WAR total on Baseball-Reference feels generous, if anything.

What's going on with Dom at the plate? Well, a Philly.com article from late April suggests that pitchers caught up to his weaknesses a little bit, pitching more low-and-away, occasionally on the inside, and rarely down the heart of the plate, where he did the majority of his damage during his hot streak last season. Dom also believes that he's streaky by nature, and GM Ruben Amaro suggests that he's been a little unlucky with some of his outs, as might be suggested by his rather low batting average on balls in play (.240).

But bad luck and needing to make adjustments only works as an excuse for so long. With over half a season's worth of evidence of slumping between the end of last year and the beginning of this year, it's pretty hard not to wonder if maybe this current rough stretch isn't the fluke for Dom, but rather the one month or so that he was super-hot last season. With Philly.com now writing that maybe it's time to send Domonic back to Triple A, maybe the Domonic Brown Actually Being Good dream is already close to over.

The really crazy thing about Dom's struggles this year, though? Philly's hitting, not predicted to be hugely productive even with a competent DomBro, has been decent regardless. The team is only 12th of 15 NL teams in runs, but they rank 5th in total OPS, with every Phils regular besides Dom and Ben Revere posting an OPS+ of over 100. With Brown producing at non-black-hole-type levels, this actually might be a half-good offensive ballclub. And maybe Domonic's turning it around a little: He's hit two homers (his second and third of the year) in the last week, though he's still gone just 4-21 total over that span.

Or maybe it's just like my Dad suggested to me one year ago: Domonic Brown is really just the Phillies' Evan Turner. As long as we have him, there'll be good stretches when he's scoring in bunches and looks like an All-Star and you think he's finally turned the corner and will be this way forever, then it'll disappear without warning and the shots will stop falling and he'll barely even look like a replacement player until one day he turns it around again. It's livable, as long as you don't let yourself get suckered in by the good times too much, too often.

The question of whether Domonic Brown is having a good year or not is a pointless one this season: He's not, and in fact he's probably been one of the worst regular players in all of MLB. But as for whether or not he's good at all...I'm not 100% ready to rule definitively on that one just yet. In baseball, you're never more than one white-hot 16-game stretch away from being good again, so here's hoping one of those comes sooner rather than later for Dom. This weekend against the Dodgers wouldn't be a terrible time to start.

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

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The Associated Press

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night's game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami's Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday's game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday's game.

Royals: RHP Chris Young activated off DL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have activated right-hander Chris Young from the disabled list before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Young, who had been out since May 9 with a right forearm strain, was placed in the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation. He was 1-5 with a 6.68 ERA in seven starts, allowing 13 home runs and walking 11 in 32 1/3 innings.

The 37-year-old Young earned the victory in the first game of the 2015 World Series, working three scoreless innings in relief as the Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings.

Kansas City optioned left-hander Brian Flynn, who was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances, to Triple-A Omaha.

Indians: Brantley unsure when he'll return
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn't think he returned from the surgery too soon. He has been hitting off a tee but isn't sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage.

Brantley finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue. For at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday in John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4, but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P