Aaron Brown turns attention to hitting in minor leagues

Aaron Brown during his days at Pepperdine. The Phillies like his power, bat speed, arm, and fielding ability.
Aaron Brown during his days at Pepperdine. The Phillies like his power, bat speed, arm, and fielding ability. (AP)
Posted: July 21, 2014

The same thoughts race through Aaron Brown's mind each time he steps up to the plate for the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters: What would I throw here if I were the pitcher? What does the situation call for?

Brown, The Inquirer's 20th-ranked Phillies prospect, can run through the scenarios because it wasn't long ago that he was a pitcher himself, and a dominant one at that. Before the Phillies selected Brown in the third round with the 81st pick of the MLB draft last month as an outfielder, he starred as a pitcher and outfielder at Pepperdine for three seasons.

"In college, I was all over the field during practice," Brown said. "From the bullpen to center field to the cages."

The 22-year-old had gaudy statistics on the mound and at the plate in 2014, going 13-1 with a 1.95 ERA while batting .314 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. With Brown at the helm, Pepperdine advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals, where it lost to Texas Christian.

Before the draft, Brown's adviser told him the majority of teams saw him as a lefthanded pitcher. Brown said he would play whichever position the organization that drafted him wanted.

Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said there was strong interest in Brown as a pitcher in the organization's draft room, but the combination of his energy, power, bat speed, arm, and fielding ability left the team's brass thinking Brown's future was in center field.

"These type of tools, strength and all of the things I talked about, they're hard to find," Jordan said.

Brown's physical tools are evident on the field. He displays a burst of speed when the ball leaves his bat; On Wednesday he nearly beat out a routine grounder to second in his first at-bat.

Jordan has been impressed with the early returns and expects Brown to develop as he focuses on one position. Brown was batting .276 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 26 games.

"I like guys that are two-way guys," Jordan said. "I think those guys are athletic, I think they get to see the game from both perspectives."

There could be a downside to Brown's experience as a two-way player in college.

One American League scout who has watched Brown play for the Crosscutters thinks Brown needs to work on the nuances of hitting, a shortcoming possibly due to Brown's playing two positions in college. Still, his raw tools intrigued the scout.

"He's got some rawness to his game," the scout said on condition of anonymity. "It's going to take some time to iron out, if it will iron out at all."

If the worst-case scenario happens and Brown doesn't pan out as a hitter, he knows he has pitching in his back pocket.

"It's always there if I need it," Brown said.


mcohen@phillynews.com

@MaxACohen

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