Corey Brown: The Future at Center Field?

As I was getting myself psyched up for tonight’s Nats game against the Phils, this tweet caught my eye:

Translated:
Corey Brown has looked like Mike Trout in the minor leagues. He’s a left-handed batter. Looks like he’ll play winter ball. Where?

Whoa. Wait. Corey Brown? Corey Brown? I mean, I liked what I saw in a couple of brief appearances with the big league club, and I was dimly aware that he was tearing up the Nats minor league system, but nobody had ever compared him to Mike Trout.

I couldn’t let a statement like that go unexamined. And, although the comparison is inapt, a quick look at the numbers suggests that maybe, just maybe Corey Brown is the Nats’ Center Fielder of the Future.

In 3 seasons (and 260 games!) at AAA (one at Sacramento, two at Syracuse)Corey Brown’s slash line is .255/.340/.463 over 1,036 plate appearances.

Mike Trout’s rise was so meteoric he spent only 20 games in AAA, posting a .403/.467/.623 slash line over a paltry 93 plate appearances. Advantage to Trout–but over a miniscule sample size.

How about their AA performances? Over 156 games and 667 plate appearances in AA, Brown posted a .298/.397.496 slash. Trout spent 91 games and 412 plate appearances at AA, posting a .326/.414/.544 slash line.

But look at those slash lines again. If we subtract the batting average from slugging percentage, we reach Isolated Power, a measure of raw power (since we throw out all the lousy singles). The gap narrows significantly: Corey Brown posts an ISO of .208 in AAA and .198 in AA, while Mike Trout posts an ISO of .220 in AAA and .218 in AA.

The difference seems to be in their strikeout rates. Trout doesn’t strike out a lot: 18.4% in AA, 17.2% in AAA, and 19.9% in his time in the big leagues so far. By contrast, Brown struck out 24.4% of the time in AA, 25.7% in AAA (We’ll throw out his big league appearances for now, since the sample size is so small).

In AAA, Brown walks 9.7% of the time and a respactable BB/K ratio of .383. This compares well with Trout’s AAA walk rate of 11.8%, but Trout trounces Brown in BB/K at .690.

Still, Brown has managed to get on base at a .340 clip in AAA. If he were to get on base at that clip in the big leagues, he would be a viable choice in the lead-off spot for the Nats. That would make him better at getting on base than any of the current Nats’ lead-off hitters.

What does all of this add up to? I guess you might say that Corey Brown is a (very) poor man’s Mike Trout–an outfielder who bats for a lot of power and gets on base at a respectable clip.

But the most important thought to carry with you into September’s roster expansion and spring training 2013 is this: Assuming Brown’s plate discipline doesn’t deteriorate, he might be the center fielder and lead-off hitter we’ve been waiting for all these years.

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