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Aaron Brown is happy to be an everyday player
June 18, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
There's a line in Aaron Brown's Pepperdine University biography which lists his greatest sports accomplishment as striking out Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Not bad for guy who played center field for the Williamsport Crosscutters in his professional debut Wednesday night.
Brown was never quite sure where he was going to end up when he was eventually selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft earlier this month. The 21-year old has a dual threat in his time at Pepperdine, and scouts were certain he could be selected in the top four rounds of the draft in either capacity.
When the Phillies selected him in the third round with the 81st overall selection, pitching wasn't in the thoughts for him. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Brown profiles as a middle of the order power hitter. He helped the Waves reach the Super Regional round of the NCAA tournament leading the team in home runs (13), RBIs (49), wins (13) and strikeouts (104).
It was the dominant kind of season which helped Brown earn a spot on the Perfect Game All-America team as a second team utility player. He was just the second player in school history to be honored on the Perfect Game All-America team.
“I like doing both, but my preference is to play every day,” Brown said Wednesday following batting practice at Bowman Field. “I don't want to sit around watching other guys play. I want to be out there playing the game.”
Brown becomes another body in an already crowded Williamsport outfield. His addition Wednesday was accompanied by shortstop Malquin Canelo's promotion to Lakewood, but Brown is still one of seven outfielders listed on the roster.
It's a roster which already includes 2013 third-round draft pick Cord Sandberg who is fifth in the New York-Penn League in hitting through five games. It's a corps which also includes Jiandido Tromp who hit two home runs in Tuesday night's win over Jamestown. Justin Parr was an eighth-round selection last year and is a former Big 10 Player of the Year. Herlis Rodriguez is a toolsy 20-year old with maybe the best throwing arm of the group. Wilmer Oberto hit six home runs and drove in more than 40 runs in the GCL last year, and Matt Shortall made his pro debut last night after being drafted in the 10th round earlier this month.
Even with the use of the designated hitter in the NYPL, playing time could be at a premium in the outfield. But Brown said he comes to Williamsport with a ton of confidence because the Phillies have shown the confidence in him to make him an every day player.
“It makes me excited,” Brown said. “A lot of people said I would go as a pitcher. The Phillies jumped on the ball and said we want to use your tools and abilities, so here's an opportunity in center field. I'm very anxious to get going.”
Maybe the biggest question for the left-hander is his plate discipline. He walked just nine times in 61 games at Pepperdine this year and struck out 52 times. He still managed a .354 on-base percentage and OPSed .908 for the year.
Brown doesn't see it as a concern, though.
“I don't really think about strikeouts. There are things that can be taken away from those at-bats, and things that you can forget about,” Brown said. “For me right now, it's a time to get better. I'll take whatever walks I can get and if I strike out, then that's the result. But I don't plan on doing that much.”
Mitch Gueller's first start of the season Tuesday night was overshadowed a bit by the offensive explosion from the Crosscutters, who scored 12 runs, but it shouldn't go unnoticed.
The right-hander who was a former supplemental first-round pick of the Phillies lasted just four innings, but had a positive outing for the Cutters. He allowed just two hits, struck out three and didn't allow a run. But maybe more important than all of that was how the 20-year old competed to strand seven runners on base.
“Just in general that was great to see,” Cutters manager Shawn Williams said. “That first inning was nice to see. He had bases loaded and one out and he challenged the guys and got out of it with nothing.”
The first-inning Houdini act for Gueller was just what Williamsport needed. The pitchers haven't been able to pick up their defense through the first four games of the season after making mistakes. But when an error by first baseman Rhys Hoskins put Gueller in a bind, Gueller first got a strikeout with runners at the corners on with his new slider for the first out. After a walk, he got a lineout to left field, then froze Chase Simpson with a fastball away to end the inning.
Gueller then stranded runners on first and second in the second inning with a ground ball out. After a batter reached on an error with one out in the third, Gueller got a ground ball and a can of corn fly ball to end the threat. He stranded his fifth runner in scoring position in the fourth inning.
“Mitch definitely stepped up when we needed him,” Cutters right fielder Cord Sandberg said. “He got some big strikeouts and got out of it without letting them have a big inning. Mitch did a great job.”
Gueller was at 86-90 mph with his fastball and threw just 29 of 57 fastballs for strikes. But the coaching staff classified it as a positive outing because of how he competed, and after setting the Cutters team record for losses in a season with eight a year ago, the kind of gutsy performance Gueller showed Tuesday night is a welcome sight.
“He gave us four good innings, and that was good for his first time out because he hadn't thrown in a while,” Williams said. “I thought he did a good job of using his fastball. He was getting after hitters.”
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