Trying to temper excitement about Maybin

Last night, Cameron Maybin put up four hits, including two line drive doubles, against the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a 7-2 win. That performance brought Maybin’s season batting line up to .257/.328/.419, an impressive feat given that he left us on May 10 with a .202/.280/.310 line. On the month, Cameron has hit .313/.376/.530 in 95 PA, a marked improvement over his first month or so in the majors with Florida.

Cameron Maybin's been hot this month, and figures to be a part of the Marlins' future.

Where has he improved? Where do we start? In 93 PA, Maybin has drawn nine walks and struck out only 18 times, compared to the eight walks and 31 strikeouts he recorded in his first 93 PA of the season. While I can’t be sure (i.e. I haven’t yet done the research) on whether this a significant approach change or just an issue of teams not pitching to him, I can say that given how poorly he was hitting early in the season, it’s unlikely that teams decided to drop their old pitching habits to him. He’s swinging at pitches like a league average hitter, so there’s not a whole lot to complain. This is likely a little high for a walk rate for Maybin, but if his pitch recognition and contact can improve a little bit, his strikeouts will go down and he’ll be a slightly better player.

What we were missing when the season started was power, and he’s flashed it so far in his second stint up. In those 95 PA, he’s recorded 11 extra-base hits, including three home runs. Compare that to six extra-baggers he got when he was up here first. What’s ironic is that while he was down in the minors, he was not performing in terms of power. In 342 PA this season in Triple-A New Orleans, Maybin only had 23 extra-base hits and two home runs when his raw stats are translated to major league equivalents, according to Minor League Splits. This is a bit less than major league average in terms of extra-baggers, but iat this point it could be an expected result for Maybin. Despite his more towering major league shots, it appears as if he’s still developing his power; currently, he’s still mostly a line-drive hitter, which isn’t terrible, especially given Maybin’s speed.

But let’s not get too excited. Maybin’s posted these numbers this month on the back of a .412 BABIP, which is a monstrous number just waiting to regress. The better contact has been a good sign, but it doesn’t mean that he’ll hit this well all of next year; a month is too little in terms of sample size to say anything definitive. I ran a quick projection using his major league numbers and major league equivalents of his minor league stats and got an expected wOBA of .316, which is around 8.5 runs below average over the course of 620 PA. This doesn’t project any growth over the offseason as Maybin gets older, and you would suspect a 24-year old to get better instead of worse, but we’ve seen problem players before (see Hermida, Jeremy) and I don’t want to get my hopes up too early. Neither should you. Let’s temper our excitement a bit. Even at this projection I have Maybin being worth about 1.5 WAR at center field, adequate but below average, certainly valuable though. Let’s not try to stick too high an expectation on the kid early.

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