Sam Donnellon: Too soon to rely on Mayberry, Brown for 2013?

Domonic Brown (above) and John Mayberry have shown some promise in second half of season, but is it enough to spark the Phillies to a strong 2013 season?
Domonic Brown (above) and John Mayberry have shown some promise in second half of season, but is it enough to spark the Phillies to a strong 2013 season? (PHOTOS: YONG KIM /STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 26, 2012

JOHN MAYBERRY is hitting at a .300 clip again.

Domonic Brown is turning on balls again, hitting ropes that bang off the rightfield wall or over it.

If you've been thrilled by the Phillies' second-half rise from their self-made ashes, you have been thrilled, as well, at times, by each man's exploits. With 13 runs batted in over his last 26 at-bats with runners in scoring position, Mayberry is again suggesting he is more than the 28-year-old journeyman he has been to this point. And the 25-year-old Brown, once deemed untradeable because of his talent, is at least offering hope that he can still emerge as a power-hitting, fleet-footed, All-Star-caliber outfielder.

The question is, do you trust what you see?

"I know exactly what you're saying," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Braves. "Games like this, there's pressure."

Yes there is. Pressure similar to what Mayberry faced this spring when the job was his to win and he did everything he could to lose it. And pressure similar to what Brown faced last summer, when he, too, was expected to emerge and flopped so badly the Phillies were forced to deal a handful of prospects to the Astros to acquire Hunter Pence.

It is unfair to measure each man's hitless Sunday in a game the Phillies had to win as any more than a bad day at the office against a pitcher who was on his game. And to be fair, Brown worked a walk, his 19th against 29 strikeouts in his second-half tryout this season, and is hitting .318 with runners in scoring position. To be even more fair, Mayberry entered Sunday's game with a .315 average over his previous 33 games, with 11 extra-base hits and 20 RBI.

Project that over 162 games, and he becomes the power-hitting monster we all hoped he would be last winter, when Phillies management gave him the leftfield job based on his second-half numbers in 2011. Promoted for good from Triple A Lehigh Valley last year on July 5, Mayberry hit .301 with a .358 on-base percentage and a .607 slugging percentage over the last 59 games. Of his 49 hits, 25 were for extra bases.

But here's the thing, and there's just no way around it. The Phillies were a winning team at that point and on their way to 102 wins, with a pitching staff that was the envy of baseball, two All-Star-caliber outfielders and a healthy Ryan Howard. Mayberry's production was a gift and not leaned upon - as it was in the early part of this season.

And we all know Brown's saga. When Jayson Werth left for greener grass in Washington after the 2010 season, it was expected that Brown would move right into his place, provide the pop his minor league numbers seemed to guarantee, and little would be missed.

Well, as Brown himself pointed out Sunday when I said he seemed more comfortable in a major league uniform these days, "This is my third time through."

That said, Brown is hitting .241 in this uneven season, with an OBP of .330 and a slugging percentage of .386. He's driven in 22 runs in 179 plate appearances and scored 18 runs. While that projects to an average outfield Joe, there have been moments, particularly of late, where he seems to have regained his line-drive power.

"I've seen improvement from Brown," Manuel said. "Like with his hitting. Especially when you see him get through balls and hit them to rightfield, and stuff like that."

Said Brown: "I've got a plan and I stick to it, and that's it. I kind of know what to look for when things are going bad. To what I was doing before. Something to get me back to that baseline and get me going."

"He's definitely improved in the outfield," the manager said. "This has been good for him, but, at the same time, he's going to have to put numbers up, too."

Translation: He's waiting until next year like the rest of us this time around. Unlike last summer and the summer before, there will be no assumption of jobs for 2013 based on half seasons, hot streaks and, that most fickle of all, hope.

But what if? What if even one of them has clicked that switch finally? Doesn't that make next season more promising? Especially since this time the club is not banking on it?

Late Sunday, I asked Charlie whether he felt any more confident about Mayberry's potential than he did a year ago. Is he the guy of the last 2 months, or the guy who finished April with a .204 average and 17 strikeouts?

"I think we definitely have a pretty good read on him as to what he is and what he can do," the manager said.

Is he any everyday player?

"I wouldn't send him a message that he's not. That's not me. He's got talent, like we always said. But at the same time . . .

"It's not just John. When you talk about other players on our team, production has to come into play, too. We need to get more out of our guys. Not only John; I'm talking every one of them."


Contact Sam Donnellon at donnels@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @samdonnellon. For recent columns, go to philly.com/SamDonnellon.

 

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