Aug. 11, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: New York Mets outfielder Andrew Brown hits a three run home run in the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Can Andrew Brown be part of the future?

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Before I dive in, I’ll point out that I’ve written before about Andrew Brown at length; so consider this a follow-up on that.

Andrew Brown, who turns 29 in a few weeks, isn’t a prospect. He was an 18th-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007, and made his way to the Mets this year after bouncing between AAA and the Majors for the Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies. He’s not young, and hasn’t shown a lot in limited major league time, sporting a career .237/.292/.420 slashline in 228 career plate appearances.

But maybe that’s not the whole story.

In 80 plate appearances over 40 games this season, Brown’s hit a respectable (if unspectacular) .260/.308/.466, highlighted by a pair of pinch hit home runs among scattered playing time. His 118 wRC+ is certainly respectable, comfortably edging the 103 mark aggregated by all major league outfielders. It’s small sample, certainly, but that slash line is a few walks away from a solid corner outfielder. Brown, of course, hasn’t received much in the name of playing time, having only 12 starts this season and 22 appearances in which he’s collected but a single plate appearance. It’s worth noting here that pinch hitters tend to be below average hitters (a combination of small sample size and inconsistent workload): while non pitchers have hit .257/.321/.404 this year, the pinch-hit split is a paltry .216/.296/.331.

We’re getting into a dangerous game here, but maybe Brown’s pinch hit numbers show a similar dichotomy; maybe he’s shown the ability to hit better when not coming off the bench? Let’s look at three splits: his stats in starts, in all non-pinch hit situations (in other words, games where he’s come off the bench but continued as a defensive replacement), and as a pinch hitter (coming off the bench and returning there):

ROLE PA AVG OBP SLG
Starter 46 0.268 0.333 0.463
Sub 34 0.250 0.273 0.469
PH 18 0.222 0.222 0.556
Overall 80 0.260 0.308 0.466
Non-PH 62 0.273 0.333 0.436

What we see here is that indeed, Andrew Brown’s splits are largely weighted down by his pinch hitting abilities (4-18 this year). The slugging percentage, lifted by a pair of home runs, stands out as an exception, but is not likely sustainable over the long run (see: Jordany Valdespin). Let’s see if the numbers pan out similarly over his career:

ROLE PA AVG OBP SLG
Starter 172 0.253 0.316 0.448
Sub 56 0.189 0.218 0.340
PH 35 0.147 0.171 0.324
Overall 228 0.237 0.292 0.420
Non-PH 193 0.254 0.314 0.439

Sure enough, they do. Now, certainly, Brown’s .254/.314/.439 slashline there still isn’t anything to be desired, but it’s worth noting that he’s generally outperforming it this year, especially in his few starts.

What does this mean? Not a ton by itself, but it does suggest that Brown could be better than advertised. He’s hitting .276/.311/.483 since his recall, and the average and power numbers line up well with his .268/.347/.495 career AAA minor-league-equivalency stats. He’s shown much better plate discipline as a starter than a pinch hitter (a trend consistent with his career numbers):

BB% K%
2013 Starter 8.70 19.6
PH 0 44.4
Career Starter 8.72 23.3
PH 2.86 48.6

Of course, this is all small-sample size; 200 or so plate appearances aren’t nearly enough to judge someone’s ability. But here’s what we do know:

Andrew Brown has mashed the ball in AAA (.305/.383/.570 in 1051 plate appearances), he costs very little, and no longer shows the platoon splits that have likely held him back in the past (since 2012: .306/.358/.573 vs. RHP, .286/.378/.567 vs. LHP).

In my (at times not-so-) humble opinion, I would say it’s in the Mets’ best interest to give Andrew Brown more playing time over the next 46 games. There’s a chance that, should the Mets be able to acquire only one big name corner outfielder (Choo/Stanton/CarGo) that Andrew Brown could be an opening day outfielder. And frankly, there’s a chance that that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

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