It might feel like it was forever ago, but Cameron Maybin was once one of the most coveted prospects baseball. The type of prospect who co-headlines a package for a young Miguel Cabrera and not-yet-awful Dontrelle Willis. From 2007-2009 he ranked in the top-10 prospects in all of baseball by Baseball America. His power and speed projections lent themselves to thoughts of a possible 30/30 outfielder who would be drafted near the top of fantasy drafts. Now, he’s 600 games into his big league career and has hit 37 homers and stolen 99 bases. He does have a 40 stolen base season on his resume, but the power never truly showed up in his game and his .247/.312/.369 slash line leaves a lot to be desired. Very little was made of his inclusion in a blockbuster deal for Craig Kimbrel on opening night of the season. It appears, though, the 28-year-old outfielder is breaking out. Colleague Alex Chamberlain took an in-depth look at Maybin yesterday, and his piece is a great read. I’d like to further enhance the case for rostering the center fielder.
Maybin’s best fantasy season to date came back in 2011. He played in 137 games, totaled 568 plate appearances and hit nine homers with 40 stolen bases and a palatable .264 batting average. Unfortunately, his 2012 campaign failed to build on his momentum and resulted in eight homers, 26 stolen bases and a .243 batting average. From 2013 through 2014, Maybin played in only 109 games and hit two homes with eight stolen bases and an ugly .222 batting average. He missed time due to injuries and suspension for testing positive for an amphetamine. The San Diego Padres decided to move on and acquired Wil Myers, Justin Upton and Matt Kemp in the offseason before jettisoning Maybin and the remainder of his contract ($15 million with a $9 million dollar team option or $1 million buyout for 2017) in the aforementioned deal for Kimbrel.
Understandably, much of the fantasy community moved on from dreaming about Maybin being a fantasy asset. The formerly highly touted prospect was the owner of a 7.7% BB, 22.4% K and poor .249/.311/.367 triple slash line entering this year. His batter ball profile was rather unimpressive as well with a 16.3% LD, 55.2% GB and 28.5% FB, and 23.4% soft, 48.7% medium and 27.9% hard contact. Maybin has made nearly across the board improvements in Atlanta.
We’re at the point in the season where plate discipline numbers should start being taken seriously, and the center fielder has a strong 12.7% BB and has whittled his punch outs down to a 19.4% K. He’s exhibiting extreme patience with a 25.6% O-Swing (30.5% is the league average this year) and 57.5% Z-Swing (66.1% league average). Couple that with improved contact (80.5% this year and 75.9% in his career before this season) and you’ve got yourself an improved hitter. His contact rate is actually better than the league average of 79.3% this year.
But wait, there’s more! While batted ball data should be taken with a grain of salt at this point since the sample isn’t large enough to normalize it all, he’s tallied a 32.6% LD and has a 16.7% soft contact, 54.4% medium contact and 28.9% hard contact. I’m not trying to suggest he’ll maintain his currently staggering line drive rate, but it’s a huge improvement over his pre-2015 rate, and he’s cut his soft contact rate by nearly seven percent. As a more physically mature person, he should be stronger and making harder contact. This is a logical improvement, and I’m willing to buy into him being able to sustain at least some of his gains even after his line drive rate suffers from some regression.
His patience and hard contact have resulted in an ascension to the two-hole in the order for the Atlanta Braves. Maybin has hit .261/.361/.435 and contributed power, five homers, and speed, six stolen bases in nine attempts. It’s also possible he’s been a tad bit unlucky. His .298 BABIP this year is below his career mark of .313 before this year despite the improved contact. Of course, part of that is the fact he’s reached the seats five times and those aren’t considered balls in play.
ZiPS and Steamer aren’t yet ready to completely buy into Maybin’s production, but they both have him pegged for five more homers in 271 and 275 plate appearances, respectively. Assuming Maybin continues to play on an everyday basis, he’ll receive more plate appearances than ZiPS and Steamer project and should best their home run projections. Both projection systems are prognosticating a .249 batting average. I’m expecting more, and I think his present average of .261 is a reasonable expectation. Maybin hasn’t been efficient stealing bases this year, and frankly, he wasn’t last year either (four stolen bases in seven chances). I don’t foresee him making a run at his career high 40 stolen bases posted in 2011, but 20-to-25 feels within reach if he can tighten up his base stealing efficiency just a bit (78.57% success rate before this year). Maybin is widely available with a 27% ownership rate in CBS leagues, 11% in ESPN leagues and 7% in Yahoo! leagues. He’s a viable fourth or fifth outfielder in standard leagues who is under owned.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.