Added strength pays off in Fall League for Jays' No. 29 prospect

October 25th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There are currently eight players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 team prospects lists who have been given an 80 run grade. One of them, , showed he's anything but a one-dimensional player on Tuesday night.

The Blue Jays' No. 29 prospect went 3-for-5 with his first home run in the Arizona Fall League as his Surprise Saguaros scored seven runs in the bottom of the eighth inning en route to a 12-10, come-from-behind victory over the Salt River Rafters.

Brown, now hitting .319 with an OPS of .900, got Surprise on the board when he took Braves left-handed pitcher Dylan Dodd out to the deepest part of the ballpark in straight-away center field in the bottom of the second.

“The scouting report was saying to see everything up,” said Brown, who also scored three times in the slugfest. “He threw me a first-pitch slider that started down, so I was just staying with the approach. He gave me a pitch that was up, the work that we put in in the cage translated. That’s what took over there.”

The 22-year-old has been working tirelessly both during those BP sessions and in terms of strength and conditioning to become a more well-rounded player. He knows that top-of-the-scale speed will always be his calling card -- he’s swiped at least 20 bases in each of his three full seasons of pro ball since Toronto drafted him out of its own backyard, the Ontario high school ranks, in the third round in 2019 -- but is clearly eager to prove he can offer more than just his wheels.

“It’s the work, man,” Brown said. “You put the work in, try to get better every single day, see it translate there is pretty cool. Obviously, we put a lot of time in the weight room trying to get a little bit bigger. Seeing it pay off is pretty cool.”

It’s been a slow payoff for Brown so far as he’s moved slowly up the Blue Jays ladder. Toronto has preached patience from the outset, knowing they were selecting a very young high school player with a ton of raw ability who could take a while to sharpen those tools and become a consistent performer. There have been glimpses of his potential, like when he finished with an OPS over .800 while hitting his way from Single-A to High-A in 2022. (He posted a .633 OPS in 2021, his first full season of pro ball.).

“I think the big thing is understanding who I am,” Brown said. “When you sign as a 17-year old, you’re still trying to figure yourself out. As you get older, get some games under your belt, you have to figure out, ‘This is what I can do.’ But staying within myself is the biggest thing. Understanding who I am is kind of where I’m at right now.”

That was important when he experienced a lot of adversity with a return to High-A Vancouver in 2023. Brown swiped 26 bags, but his .218/.309/.315 line was not exactly how he hoped to follow up his 2022 campaign. He learned some valuable lessons that he brought with him to the Fall League, particularly about the mental side of the game, and it’s helped him put up a .319/.389/.511 line over his first 13 games.

“Dealing with failure,” Brown singled out as the biggest lesson from the regular season. “The best players go through it. It’s not one person or the other; every single guy goes through it. Understanding that it’s part of the game, clearing your head every single day and coming back with the same mindset, ‘I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of,' and let everything else just take over.”

Those who see Brown as a future table-setter who provides outstanding defense – he nearly threw out a runner at the plate to end Tuesday's game – need not worry that one big fly is going to mean Brown starts selling out for power. Sure, he understands he’ll need to keep proving he can impact the baseball, but he’s not going to stray from who he is to do it.

“I think the big thing is using the big part of the field,” Brown said. “Understanding my tools, trying to keep the ball on a line and use my speed that way, but any time you get a ball up in the air like that, that exit velo is pretty cool.”

Brown wasn’t the only Blue Jays prospect to add to the offensive output in a game with a combined 22 runs and 33 hits. Damiano Palmegiani (TOR No. 18) went 2-for-5 with four RBIs, three of them on a bases-loaded triple in that huge eighth. Eight of the nine batters in the Saguaros lineup picked up a hit as Surprise moved into first place with a 12-8 record.

Brown plans on continuing to contribute to those winning ways, but he’s learned that it's a process. It’s not always easy for a young player to buy into the concept of patience, no matter how often the organization pushes it, but he seems to have a good grasp of it.

“You know what you’re capable of; the biggest thing is just trusting it,” Brown said. “You want everything in one bite, but to take in those small steps, at the end of the day, it leads to a bigger picture. Trying to get better, and whatever happens, it happens."