Not too long ago, the name “Cameron Maybin” meant big things. Picked tenth overall by the Detroit Tigers in the 2005 draft, the eighteen year-old from Asheville, North Carolina was surely going to be the next great five-tool centerfielder.
In his first season in the Minor Leagues for the Tigers, Maybin exhibited why scouts gushed about him. Maybin posted a .304/.387/.457 line with 9 homeruns, 69 RBI, 59 runs, and 27 stolen bases at Single-A. The right-handed hitter only improved the following season, smacking a .316/.409/.523 line with 14 homeruns, 53 RBI, 68 runs, and 25 stolen bases between multiple levels (as high as Double-A). But as bright as Maybin’s future no doubtably seemed, the constantly re-building Florida Marlins dangled young slugger Miguel Cabrera like a carrot in front of the Tigers–and they couldn’t refuse.
In 2007, the Tigers dealt Maybin, along with Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio de la Cruz, and Dallas Trahern to the Marlins for Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. At the time, the trade was seen as an even split–the Tigers got their sure-thing slugger, and the Marlins received almost Major League-ready prospects. However, Maybin’s road to success encompassed a few hurdles.
Even though many people thought Maybin was ready to play for the Marlins right away, the cost-conscious franchise preferred to delay his arbitration years by keeping him in the Minors. Maybin continued his impressive Minor League stats, owning a .277/.375/.456 line in 2008 (at Double-A) and .319/.399/.463 line in 2009 (at Triple-A). But as solid as the outfielder was against Minor League pitching, the youngster struggled in his stints in “the show.”
From 2008 to 2010, Maybin collected 557 plate appearances, while posting an unremarkable .257/.323/.391 line. While the outfielder showed promise with his glove in 2009 (13.4 UZR/150), he struggled at the position the following season (-6.3 UZR/150). With a subpar glove (-6.3 UZR/150), mediocre pop (.361 SLG), and less speed than he showed in the Minors (9 stolen bases), Maybin’s 2010 season not only sold him out of a starting job, but also out of a roster spot.
The Marlins uncharacteristically cast the outfielder off in 2011, sending Maybin to the Padres in exchange for two relievers (Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb). With a guaranteed starting job in the very low pressure San Diego environment, Maybin flourished in 2011. The right-handed hitter posted a .264/.323/.393 line (which was eerily identical to the cumulative .257/.323/.391 line he posted with the Marlins), but also stole 40 bases (tied for second with Matt Kemp, Emilio Bonifacio, and Drew Stubbs), and placed second in the National League among centerfielders with a 11.6 UZR/150.
As much of a breakout season as 2011 was for Maybin, some of his peripherals indicate there could be some regression in 2012 and beyond. His .331 BABIP suggests an elevated hit rate–but then again, he owns a career .332 BABIP. In addition, Maybin tends to strikeout too often (22% K%) and doesn’t walk enough to be a leadoff man (7.7% BB%), but he also has a respectable 31.6% non-strike swing rate. People also have to remember that despite the ups-and-downs of Maybin’s career over the past four seasons, the guy will just be 25 years-old. While he was certainly a can’t miss prospect not too long ago, if the expectations for stardom are lowered to more pedestrian levels, a team could do a lot worse than a terrific defensive outfielder with top-ceiling speed.