PHILADELPHIA -- The only player the Phillies refused to trade as they collected aces like Charlie Manuel collects coins was Domonic Brown.
They have believed for a long time he will be something special.
MLB.com agrees. It just released its Top 50 Prospects list, and Brown ranks fourth. First baseman and outfielder Jonathan Singleton, who tore up the South Atlantic League last season, ranks 30th. Former Philadelphia pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, who was traded to Toronto for Roy Halladay in December 2009, ranks 12th.
Brown is going to get every opportunity to prove himself this season. Brown and Ben Francisco enter Spring Training as the favorites to replace Jayson Werth in right field. The competition, which also includes Ross Gload and John Mayberry Jr., should be the most interesting storyline over the six-plus weeks of Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla.
Brown hit a combined .327 with 22 doubles, four triples, 20 home runs, 68 RBIs, a .391 on-base percentage and a .589 slugging percentage in 389 at-bats last season with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He earned a spot in the XM All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim. A few weeks later, Brown earned a promotion to the big leagues, and he stuck with the big league team the remainder of the season. He hit .210 with three doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs in 62 at-bats in limited action.
At times, Brown showed his immense potential.
He also showed how raw he is.
Brown got sent home after struggling in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. The Phillies have said his struggles, which they attributed to fatigue, are of no concern. But it certainly would have helped his cause to have success there.
It only means Brown will have to prove himself in the Grapefruit League.
If he plays well, he could earn playing time with Francisco. If he struggles, it would not be a surprise to see him open the season with Lehigh Valley.
Singleton is not as close to the Majors as Brown, but he has showed plenty of potential. He hit .290 with 25 doubles, two triples, 14 homers, 77 RBIs, a .393 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage as an 18-year-old at Class A Lakewood.
He plays first base, which could be a problem. Ryan Howard signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension that doesn't kick in until 2012, but the Phils are going to give Singleton a chance at learning the outfield. They tried the same experiment with Howard before they traded Jim Thome to the White Sox following the 2005 season, but it never stuck.
The Phillies believe Singleton has a better shot at changing positions.
If Singleton can continue his progress offensively and adapt to the outfield, he would have a quicker path to the big leagues.
Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has talked a few times this offseason about eventually having young talent replace some of the veterans in the lineup. If Brown and Singleton live up to their talents and promise, it certainly would be a good place to start.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.