On Saturday, Cameron Maybin agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract with the San Diego Padres. The deal will keep the 24-year-old in San Diego through at least his first free agent year.
It's been a long journey for the former first-round pick, who was drafted ahead of the likes of fellow outfielders Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce and Jacoby Ellsbury and was involved in trades for both a star (Miguel Cabrera) as well as two middle relievers (Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb). But now on his third team and fresh off his fifth season of Major League action, Maybin has found a home.
Maybin had the best season of his young career in 2011, posting a .265/.323 /.393 triple slash line and swiping a team-leading 40 bases. He also led the Padres in runs scored (82), total bases (203), and triples (8). He tied for the team lead in hits (136) and was tied for second in home runs (9). His 4.7 Wins Above Replacement ranked sixth among all center fielders last season and tied for sixth among Padres outfielders in the Wild Card era.
Despite the success, Maybin’s offensive numbers suffered from hitting in the cavernous Petco Park, which consistently ranks in the bottom-third of the Majors in home runs hit and runs scored according to ESPN’s Park Factors. He batted .231 at home last year compared to .294 on the road, and there was an even bigger discrepancy in his slugging percentage (.324 to .457).
But while his home park punishes his surface-level offensive numbers, it is that same home park that represents one of the reasons Maybin is so valuable to the Padres - centerfield defense. Few parks are as spacious in the outfield as Petco, and Maybin's ability to track down batted balls represented a significant portion of his value in 2011.
Baseball Info Solutions has worked to upgrade its defensive analysis, a re-tooling that will be unveiled in The Fielding Bible III. Suffice it to say, the adjusted defensive metrics suggest Maybin was one of the premier defensive players at his position in 2011 - he ranked tied for third in Defensive Runs Saved.
While Maybin's defensive value is evident and his offense progressed, the latter still has significant room for growth. Most notably, Maybin's issues with changeups provide a clear area for potential improvement.
Maybin chased almost 39 percent of soft pitches (changeups, sliders, curveballs) low and away out of the strike zone and had only two hits on 239 such pitches in 2011. That .038 BA ranked 131st out of 145 qualified hitters. Specific to the changeup, Maybin ranked among the bottom of the league in batting average, OPS and strikeout rate against that pitch over the last three seasons combined.
He did, however, improve against the changeup from 2010 to 2011 - he raised his batting average (.091 to .197) and his OPS (.182 to .505), while reducing his strikeout rate (46 percent to 27 percent). Maybin - and the Padres - hope the trend continues in 2012.