I'm already on record as saying that the Delmon Young signing makes some sense for the Phillies. At $750,000, there is not a lot of downside.
That being said, there is some downside, and that downside is the potential that the signing of Young precludes Domonic Brown from entering a season with the confidence that comes with knowing that he has a regular major league job. Now, I know there is a faction of Phillies fans that is suffering from Dom Brown fatigue. That faction would likely argue that 422 plate appearances is as much of an opportunity as most players can hope for at the major league level. And in the 422 plate appearances that Brown has logged over the last couple of seasons, he hasn't put up the numbers that you would expect out of a prospect who was as highly touted as he was.
But do me a favor and forget about the expectations for a moment. Instead of comparing Brown to the player you were led to believe he would be, why not compare him to the player who the Phillies just signed to replace him as their top option in right field heading into spring training.
What if I told you that, according to virtually every objective measure available to us, Dom Brown has been a better baseball player than Delmon Young over the last two seasons?
Should Domonic Brown start in left field for the Phillies?
Over the last two years, Brown has 21 doubles, 3 triples, 10 home runs, 46 walks and 2 hit by pitches in 422 plate appearances. That means he has produced a total of 194 bases in 422 plate appearances (two bases for a double, three for triple, one for a walk, etc.). That's an average of 0.46 bases per plate appearances. Over the last two seasons, Delmon Young has produced an average of 0.43 bases per plate appearance.
Power? Young has the edge in home runs, averaging one every 34.9 at bats, while Brown checks in at one every 37.1 at bats. But Brown has an edge in extra base hits, averaging one every 10.9 ABs, with Young checking in at one every 13.1 ABs. Of Brown's 89 hits, 38 percent have gone for extra bases. Of Young's 280 hits, 29 percent have gone for extra bases.
Contact? Brown has struck out in 16 percent of his plate appearances. Young has struck out in 18 percent of his PAs. Advantage: Brown.
RBIs? Young has the edge there, averaging one every 8.1 plate appearances (Brown: 9.4 PAs). But Brown has scored runs at a higher rate, because he reaches base more (one every 8.6 PAs compared to one every 10.3 PAs for Young). And since RBIs and runs both equal the same number on the scoreboard, it is worth noting that Brown has produced an RBI or a run every 5.0 PAs, while Young has done so every 5.1 PAs. So even if you believe that runs and RBIs are valid metrics to measure performance, Brown has the slight edge there.
So what am I missing? Brown reaches base more, creates more bases with his hits, strikes out less, and produces runs at a higher rate. Over the course of a 600 plate appearance season, at the rates both players posted in 2011 and 2012, Young would give you a grand total of 2 more home runs, 30 more singles and 11 more RBIs at the expense of 40 more walks/HBPs, 4 more doubles, 3 more triples, 8 fewer strikeouts, 10 fewer double plays, and 12 more runs scored.
Again, at the rates both players have posted over the last two seasons, this is how a season of 600 plate appearances would look:
Domonic Brown: 600 PAs, 195 times on base, 14 home runs, 30 doubles, 4 triples, 98 strikeouts, 64 RBIs, 70 runs, 11 GIDPs.
Delmon Young: 600 PAs, 179 times on base, 16 home runs, 26 doubles, 1 triple, 106 strikeouts, 75 RBIs, 58 runs, 21 GIDPs.
Really, the best anybody can say for Young is that the two players' production has been similar. The big difference, of course, is that we at least have enough of a sample size to say that Young can be expected to give the Phillies mediocre production. Maybe you think we have enough of a sample size to say the same thing about Brown, and that he has already peaked at 24 years old, and that Young after seven years in the majors has more upside.
I'm just not sure that it makes sense to give Delmon Young his fourth opportunity to fulfil his potential before giving Domonic Brown his first real one.