26-year-old former Oakland A's outfield prospect Corey Brown hit his 11th HR in 176 at bats Thursday night, taking 26-year-old Cleveland Indians' prospect Eric Berger deep to right on the second pitch of the bottom of the first of Brown's Syracuse Chiefs' game against the Indians' Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. It was Brown's third home run off a left-hander this year, and his 3 for 5 night left the former Oklahoma State outfielder and second-year Nats' prospect with a .270/.426/.514 line against lefties and a .294/.399/.561 line overall on the year. Brown now has nine doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, 31 walks, 39 K's and six stolen bases in 47 games and 180 at bats. Most impressive, is the fact that Brown started the year with a .237/.349/.398 April. In his last 23 games, the left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder acquired along with Henry Rodriguez in the December 2010 trade that sent Josh Willingham to Oakland, is 31 for 87 with seven doubles, a triple and eight home runs.
Brown played in just two games in his first Spring Training with the Nationals in 2011 before he suffered an ankle injury on a play at the plate that ended his Spring. In his first full season in the organization, following a .283/.370/.466 2010 season with the A's in which he had 18 doubles, 11 triples, 15 HR's and 22 stolen bases in 131 games and 534 plate appearances between Double and Triple-A, the fifth-year-pro struggled for most of the year, but ended the season with a strong .351/.414/.608, five-home run August after which he was called up to make his MLB debut last September. An infection in his knee, which required surgery, ended Brown's 2011 campaign after just three plate appearances with the Nationals.
The outfielder came in to Spring Training healthy and impressed, going 9 for 29 (.310/.355/.448) with a double and a home run in 13 games in which he made several impressive plays in the outfield before he was re-assigned to Triple-A Syracuse to start the season. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson praised the work Brown had done in Spring Training after he was sent to out, telling reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, that he'd spoken to the outfielder and, "'... told him if he keeps doing the things he's doing,'" the Nationals, who were searching for an outfielder all winter, "... won't have to look for a CFer.'"
The WaPost's Mr. Kilgore spoke to the Nats' Director of Player Development Doug Harris on Thursday for an article on Brown entitled, "Corey Brown emerges at Syracuse, and another Nationals minor league name to know", in which he quoted Mr. Harris attributing Brown's success this year to, "... an adjustment he made this spring with Syracuse hitting coach Troy Gingrich,":
"Last year, Harris said, Brown shifted his weight in his lower body too early in his swing. He stayed back better this year, making him more consistent and closing holes in his swing."
As Mr. Harris put it when discussing the possibility of Brown coming up to the majors, both Nats' skipper Davey Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo, "'... certainly are aware of the strides he’s made and his potential to be an option if needed.'" The Nationals' general manager talked about Brown during this week's edition of The Mike Rizzo Show on 106.7 the FAN in D.C., telling hosts Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier he's been impressed with what he's seen:
"Corey was a guy that we traded [Josh] Willingham for along with Henry Rodriguez," the GM recounted, "We've had high hopes for Corey. We feel he's starting to figure it out, mostly because he's been injury free this Spring and early in the season. He's got great power. He's a great defensive center fielder and a guy who's really turned it on and made some adjustments with his approach to the plate and his swing and it seems like they're paying off. So we've always liked Corey and we feel that there's a place for him in this organization and ultimately on the ballclub."
Is there a Michael Morse, Corey Brown and Bryce Harper outfield in the Nats' future (until Jayson Werth comes back and assuming Morse can return)? Corey Brown's doing all he can to make it happen.