An incentive-laden one-year/$500,000 base deal got the Oakland A's one-time White Sox' power threat Frank Thomas after a 2005 season in which the veteran slugger struggled with injuries left the then-37-year-old DH without many suitors that winter. Following up on an '05 campaign which saw Thomas, who was hobbled by ankle issues, post a .219/.315/.590 slash line with 12 HR's in 34 games, the Oakland Athletics' DH hit 39 HR's, drove in 114 and hit .270 with a .926 OPS, helping the A's reach the ALCS and earning himself (around $3M in bonuses) and a 2-year/$18 million dollar deal the next winter from the Toronto Blue Jays.
The A's got the 59th pick in the 1st (Compensation) Round of the '07 Draft in return for Toronto signing Thomas away and Oakland used the pick to select 21-year-old Oklahoma State University outfielder Corey Brown, whose 15 doubles, 22 HR's and .335/.493/.736 line during his junior season with the Cowboys had Minor League Ball's John Sickels rank him amongst the Top 10 hitters available in the Draft.
After hitting 18 doubles and 11 HR's in a 59-game start to his pro career at Class-A Vancouver in 2007, and earning himself a mention of the "Top Athlete" in the A's system on Baseball America's Jan. '08 prospect list, Brown split the '08 season between Class-A Kane County and A+ Stockton hitting a combined 27 doubles and 30 HR's with a .266/.345/.510 slash line in 134 games and 565 plate appearances.
Brown played just 66 games in 2009, hampered by a knee injury (right knee strain), but after hitting 20 doubles and nine HR's with a .268/.349/.488 line in 281 plate appearances, the outfielder went to the Arizona Fall League, where, playing alongside Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa and Chris Marrero with the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Brown hit .333 with six doubles, six HR's, (tied for second), a .397 OBP, .619 SLG, 65 total bases (second in the AFL), 15 extra-base hits (tied for third) and 35 hits (fourth behind the Pirates' Jose Tabata, the Cubs' Starlin Castro and the Marlins' Bryan Petersen, all of whom have made their MLB debuts last year) in 25 games and 105 at bats.
(ed. note - "Corey Brown pops up in a review of one of Stephen Strasburg's starts that I saw that Fall, with the outfielder making an ill-advised dive that cost Stras the only extra base hit he allowed.")
After his first Spring Training with Oakland in 2010, during which Brown hit in 6 of 24 at bats in 12 games, the outfielder started the season at Triple-A but struggled and was sent down for another go-round at Double-A Midland in the Texas League. The 24-year-old outfielder hit in 106 of 331 at bats (.320/.415/.502) with 14 doubles, eight triples and 10 HR's in 90 games.
Brown, "earned citations as a Texas League All-Star and Topps Double-A All-Star...ranking among Double-A leaders for on-base percentage (third), batting average (fifth) and triples (tied for eighth)," (as the Nats' noted in the press release announcing that they'd acquired the outfielder along with RHP Henry Rodriguez this past winter in a trade for OF Josh Willingham) and earning a call back up to Triple-A at the end of the season where he, "finished his 2010 regular season on a high note with Sacramento, batting .346 with three homers and a 1241 OPS in seven games," as Scout.com's Melissa Lockhard noted in a quick profile on Brown entitled, "Brown Makes Topps Double-A All-Star List", to finish his time at Triple-A with a .193/.253/.378 line, 26 doubles, 5 HR's and 20 RBI's in 41 games and 148 plate appearances.
Described as a "toolsy Triple-A center fielder" with, "with enough speed for center field and a strong arm", and a, "smooth lefty swing with leverage that generates power to all fields," by Baseball America's Jim Shonerd and Matt Eddy in an article on the deal with Oakland entitled, "Athletics Add Willingham To Outfield Mix", Brown has a .981 fld% in with 14 errors in 321 games in center over four seasons in the A's system (.915 fld% in RF, .950 fld% overall in the OF).
Potential bullpen option Henry Rodriguez was no doubt considered the key addition in the trade for Josh Willingham, and Nats' GM Mike Rizzo sees the reliever starting the season in D.C. Brown is likely headed for Triple-A Syracuse after coming to Spring Training with the big league club, as the Nationals' General Manager said in a conference call following the trade, (which you can hear at Nationals 360.com, and which Nats Insider.com's Mark Zuckerman transcribed in an article entitled, "Rizzo, Beane, Willingham speak.") Mr. Rizzo said that in spite of his trouble at Triple-A with Oakland, the Nats, "...feel that he's going to adjust quite comfortably to Triple-A and ultimately will help us out on the big-league roster in the near future,":
"He's a guy we've always liked since the draft days. We feel that he's got a big tool package. He's an athletic guy that can run, hit, hit for power and play really good defense. He's a guy that has the ability to play center field, but also has the power to play both corners."
Should Nyjer Morgan be worried?