Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: Cameron Maybin

After spending nearly a week and a half fine-tuning the Spotlight in an attempt to harness it's power, a ray of hope has made an appearance. Not only is Curtis Granderson still healthy *knocks on wood* but he homered again the day after the article was posted. It's an ongoing process but we're starting to head in the right direction.

You live by the longball, you die by the longball. This is essentially the strategy of powerhouse teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. Does anyone remember the phrase "Speed Kills"? That sounds a lot more reassuring to me.

So why do so many fantasy owners ignore the SB category? Maybe it's because they're Head-2-Head owners who are sacrificing one category in the hopes that they can win the other four. Whatever the reasoning, I simply do not understand it. I personally feel that speed is just as entertaining as power...fireworks aside. Want proof? Look here.

With that being said, it's no surprise that this week, we shine The Sabermetric Spotlight on...

Cameron Maybin, OF San Diego Padres

Like I said before, I see the merit of sacrificing one category to load up on others in Head-2-Head leagues. Maybe it's because power is easier to predict but would it be crazy to load up on speed and sacrifice power? If you could predict it properly, wouldn't you end up in a similar place? And what about Roto leagues, where all categories are accounted for? Certainly you need to pay attention to speed, then?

Before anyone gets all up in arms, I understand that a HR also equals a R and a RBI, as well as a small boost in AVG. Is it crazy to think that a SB also means an increase in R, as well as AVG (gotta love those infield hits)? I also understand that SB's are cheap and far easier to come by. On a slightly related side note, this fascinating article details just how rare and expensive power/speed combo's are, while speed itself is rather cheap.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, as far as speed outbursts in 2011, has been Cameron Maybin. As of this articles posting, Maybin has swiped 31 bases in 34 attempts. That is not a typo. Maybin has always been considered an extremely gifted athlete and a five-tool prospect but, to this point, hasn't really met the lofty expectations placed on him. Perhaps his performance this season is a sign of better things to come and the beginnings of a fantasy baseball superstar. Let us remember, the kid is only 24 years old. He's not even in his prime yet.

Where is all this speed coming from? Some would argue it's been there all along and that he's never been given the chance to showcase it. I tend to find myself agreeing that that crowd, as his numbers are hard to ignore. Take a look at the chart below.

There is definitely a big spike in SB's in the last month or so. How can we explain this? On June 1st, the Padres placed Maybin on the DL (retroactive to May 28th) with a knee injury. The MRI showed no signs of structural damage but the Padres said that Maybin had been playing through it for the previous two weeks. Anyone who has ever had a knee injury knows that walking, let alone running, is difficult. Perhaps this is the biggest reason why Maybin only stole two bases from April 21st through June 24th. FanGraphs ranks Maybin with the second highest Speed Score (Spd) in the league, behind only Jose Reyes. That's pretty remarkable, considering the guys he appears ahead of. Maybin's current Spd of 8.5 is identical to the leader last season, Carl Crawford. Spd is not the most useful statistic in the world, but I bring it up to point out that I'm not the only one who's noticed Maybin's speed of late.

Ok, ok...so he's posted good SB numbers. So what? One category alone will hardly help anyone win a Head-2-Head match-up or a Roto championship, for that matter. What do his other numbers look like and what do they mean for his future production?

If you take away the SB category, you basically have a glorified Ben Revere. He has 31 RBI on the season (that's right, the same number as his SB total) to go along with 63 R, 7 HR and an acceptable AVG of .276. These numbers aren't anything special, but they certainly won't hurt you either.

What about his future, though? What type of player does Maybin project to be? Honestly, it's hard to say. He's been one of the top prospects in baseball for the last half decade or so, and he's yet to pan out, while the two high school outfielders who were taken the picks immediately after him have flourished in the majors. Can you name them? Try Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce.

It might sound crazy, but I would actually like to compare Maybin to Justin Upton and Crawford. They all have extremely similar heights and weights, were highly touted prospects brought into the show at an early age and have had their doubters. Upton has gone on to explode into one of the game's best, while Crawford has taken a giant step backwards so far here in 2011. Comparing Maybin and Crawford's numbers side by side might surprise you.

Guess who's having the better season? Obviously it's Maybin, nearly across the board. If I may, I'd like to make a bold prediction here:

Rest of their career, better 5x5 value: Maybin or Crawford. I'm going with Maybin.

The reasoning behind it is peppered in the article above. There is so much potential there and he's also six years younger than Crawford.

Perhaps Maybin's biggest critics are asking, "But what about the power? And the ballpark?" It's true. PETCO isn't exactly what you want when you are attempting to develop your power stroke. However, Adrian Gonzalez (who was featured last month in his own Sabermetric Spotlight) seemed to fair pretty well. I think there is also something to be said about being given the chance to develop as a player on a team that itself is rebuilding. I found this quote from an article by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN very enlightening:
"This is the first time in two or three seasons where I've felt comfortable," Maybin said. "I'm not worried about the consequences of going out there and trying to get a hit every night. Even if I have a bad week or a bad month, I feel like these guys are still with me."
"In past situations, I've always felt like I had to be perfect or I might get sent down a month or two into the season. Now I'm able to relax and make the adjustments I need to make. I'm just believing in myself a little more."
The potential is all there AND you can get him on the cheap. In 2011 drafts, Maybin wasn't even drafted in the Top 260 players and those who drafted him in deeper leagues or in the late rounds are feeling pretty smart now. I think Maybin's value is highest in Roto Keeper and Dynasty Leagues, and he should be targeted if you can get him for the right price.

Have a question or comment? Want to suggest the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Leave a comment below or drop me a line on Twitter @SillyLittleGame.

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