2010 Marlin Manaic Preview: Center Field
By Michael Jong
Almost all the way home on the position players, we arrive now at center field, a position of a bit of contention last season. This year, the job is once again Cameron Maybin’s to lose, but the team and all of us fans hope he takes over permanently in 2010. What can we expect from his performance this season?
Starter: Cameron Maybin
Backup: Cody Ross
Backup: Emilio Bonifacio
Minor league depth: Scott Cousins
Once again this season, Cameron Maybin will come into Spring Training expected to win the center field job. Last year, he did take the job out of Spring Training but came out of the gates in an awful fashion. In his first 95 PA, Maybin recorded an atrocious .259 wOBA, batting just .202/.280/.310 and earning himself a demotion to Triple-A. The problem early was contact; Maybin struck out 31 times in 94 non-IBB PA, a rate of 33%! Among regulars in 2009, only one player, Arizona Diamondback Mark Reynolds, struck out in more than 33% of his PA. Maybin also only mustered seven unintentional walks, a rate of only 7.4%.
Maybin’s lack of contact earned him a demotion, but in Triple-A he flourished. Maybin went to New Orleans and batted .319/.399/.463, a wOBA of .387 for Triple-A. Maybin cut down on his strikeouts, recording a K in only 16.9% of his PA while walking in 11.1% of them. The season performance was excellent and earned Maybin his third season of September play. After returning to the bigs, he did not disappoint, batting .293/.353/.500 in 104 PA that month, good for a healthy .357 wOBA. The performance came with some inspiring signs. Maybin dropped his strikeout rate, striking out in just 19.2% of his PA. He also hit three home runs, the same total he had in his time in Triple-A, contributing to a .196 adjusted ISO for the month.
Despite the solid September that Maybin showed, I’ve been skeptical about his value for this 2010 season.
Projection: About 600 PA, 3.0 WAR
You might ask how that qualifies as “skeptical.” Apparently the Fans have been far more cautious about Maybin than the projection systems have. For example, CHONE has Maybin putting up a 3 WAR season in under 500 PA! Both Bill James and CHONE project Maybin at a .355 wOBA with similar batting lines of around .282/.365/.438. This doesn’t seem terribly far-fetched, except for one problem: both systems still have strikeout rates projected around 22-25%. The result of this is that in order to reach such a lofty projected slash line, both systems had to have BABIP projected values of over .360, difficult to imagine given the outlier aspect of that sort of BABIP.
Earlier this offseason, I discussed Maybin’s possibility of a 3 WAR season and found that it is still a viable option, just not something that would happen as quickly as CHONE suggested. In that article, I used two slash lines and appropriate wOBA weights to calculate what possible results we could expect from Maybin if we didn’t get a .370 BABIP from him. The Fans have a somewhat optimistic .343 BABIP, while I dropped his to a probably pessimistic .325. The slash lines referenced in the article based on these BABIP’s are .262/.350/.418 (.338 wOBA) and .249/.338/.405 (.327 wOBA) respectively.
On defense, both the Fans and CHONE like Maybin at around +6 runs / 150 games. I went ahead and did my comparisons with the Fans Scouting Report as I showed yesterday with Chris Coghlan and found the pool of comparable players at center field (more on this methodology a little bit later today). Here were the players I found.
|Tony Gwynn, Jr.||3.63||19.5||+5|
That pool of players gives a weighted projection (based on their similarity scores) of +3.7 runs / 150 games. Call it an even +4 runs / 150 games. I would not be surprised if Maybin came out at something around +5 runs. In total, a 3 WAR season could be on its way, even without the extremely favorable projections. The Marlins should be very happy to hear this.
The primary backups for Maybin will be Cody Ross and Emilio Bonifacio. The Marlins are likely to late-inning outfield defensive replacements, and the team feels like it has two excellent defensive backups in Bonifacio and Brett Carroll. Truthfully, Carroll is very good, while Bonifacio certainly has the speed (if not yet the instincts) to man center field. When Maybin was starting primarily in center, the Marlins did often go to replacing him on defense late, usually shifting Ross to center and bringing in Carroll. Should an injury occur, expect Ross to take over center field. What the team will do with right at that point depends on the severity of the injury.