When Aaron Brown came out of Pepperdine in 2014, he was an accomplished two-way player, with teams liking him on both sides of the ball. The Phillies drafted him as an outfielder and he reached Double-A in 2016, starting back there this season.
Brown's career hadn't been disastrous with the bat. He finished this season with a career .252/.316/.381 line, and spending two autumns in the Arizona Fall League. But with his progress seemingly stalled, and with a .222 average over his first 28 games this year, the Phillies approached their former third-round pick about switching gears and giving pitching a try.
"Aaron was very open to it," Phillies farm director Joe Jordan said. "He still believes in his ability to figure some things out with the bat, but when I talked to him, he was very open. I was a little surprised he was ready to go so quickly."
Brown's last at-bat with Double-A Reading came on May 29. On July 6, he made his professional pitching debut in the Gulf Coast League at age 25, and after four appearances there, he made 10 more with Clearwater in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. While numbers should be largely thrown out the window at the start of a conversion like this, it should be noted that the left-hander did strike out better than a batter per inning (he also walked one per inning). The Phillies saw Brown reach 94 mph at times out of the bullpen to go along with a slider that would get a good hitter out.
"The stuff was a little better than I expected it to be," Jordan admitted. "I was in the Draft room in 2014, and it was somewhat split on how to send him out. I knew based on what our scouts said that this guy was pretty good on the mound."
Understandably, there were just flashes of that fastball-slider combination. That's why, even though it's rare these days to see a Double-A 25-year-old participate in instructional league play, Brown is in Clearwater trying to relearn the art of pitching.
"Here, it's really getting back to the basics with this delivery that we want to cover, get it ingrained so he can continue that this offseason," Jordan said. "We wanted him to get mound time. The plan was for him to go to Puerto Rico, but that's way up in the air."
The biggest next step for Brown is simply to get used to being a pitcher. At instructs, along with getting some innings in games in a schedule that begins on Saturday, he'll focus on the steps he'll need to take in order to be ready to do this full time in 2018.
"He hasn't prepared or trained in any way for pitching in three years," Jordan said. "If we want to accomplish what we want in instructs and he leaves with a new training regimen for him, I'm excited about what might happen, because I saw the stuff this summer without the routine of pitching.
"He's 100 percent invested in the change. He's a very competitive kid. It's a good challenge in front of him and I like how he's going about it."