Since coming over from Oakland along with Henry Rodriguez in the Josh Willingham trade, Corey Brown has been an intriguing possibility for die-hard Nationals fans who have wondered whether or not the former first-round pick could be the answer to the team’s long-term hopes in center field. After 2012, it doesn’t look like the answer to those questions will be “yes,” although that’s not necessarily through any fault of Brown’s.
2012 Projection (ZiPS): .211/.281/.364, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 130 games (459 AB)
2012 Actual: .200/.231/.400, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 19 games (25 AB)
Brown yo-yoed between Washington and Syracuse often in 2012, getting called up and sent down twice before returning for good with the September roster expansion. His AAA numbers were very good, hitting .285 with 25 homers and 71 RBIs in 126 games for the Chiefs, earning both mid-season and post-season All-Star team nods in the International League. The success didn’t quite translate to his time with the Nationals however, partly because of lack of opportunity, but also because Brown didn’t quite step up and take a firm hold of a reserve outfielder’s spot like Tyler Moore did when he got his chance.
Brown made his first appearances of 2012 at the end of May in a three-game series in Miami, joining the team when Chad Tracy landed on the 15-day disabled list and departing shortly thereafter when Michael Morse was deemed healthy. Brown’s longest and most influential stint with the Nationals came in July after Ian Desmond was injured. Brown started one game in Milwaukee and did manage to belt his first major league home run off the Brewers’ Randy Wolf, but was shuffled back to Syracuse when Tracy returned.
Even during September, Brown was only called upon off the bench, unable to work his way into even a post-clinch lineup. Given what he accomplished at AAA, it could be argued that Brown wasn’t give an opportunity to help the club. But at the same time, who would he have displaced? The same question lingers for 2013. Assuming the Nationals outfield remains intact, it is hard to imagine Brown bumping Moore or Roger Bernadina from their spots as the right-handed and left-handed outfield bench options. And given Bryce Harper‘s emergence as a better than expected major league center fielder, the Nationals will probably be very willing to wait until Brian Goodwin is ready, perhaps 2014, before installing Goodwin as the every day center fielder.
Should all remain the same, Brown should begin 2013 at Syracuse, either in center or a corner spot if he is beaten out by Eury Perez. While it’s certainly possible Brown, who will turn 27 in the off-season, could still be a very serviceable addition to a big league ballclub down the road, chances are it will not be in Washington.
Season Highlight: Had to be his first major league hit, which went for a home run July 28 against the Brewers. Brown went the other way against a tough lefty in Wolf, breaking a scoreless fourth-inning tie and helping the Nats to a 4-1 win over Milwaukee.