As you may have heard, the Angels and Tigers wasted no time in kicking off the hot stove season, announcing a noteworthy trade before the carpet in the visitor's clubhouse of Progressive Field has had a chance to dry. Cameron Maybin had career year in 2016 with a reasonable $9 million option for 2017, but the Tigers needed a spot for outfield prospect JaCoby Jones. I do not need to break down the specifics for you, as the story has already been covered terrifically here, here and here. This community has generally been in favor of the trade, but our little tribe is also informed enough to point out that this is hardly the slam-dunk acquisition that will finally solve the Angels' problems in left field once and for all.
The most pressing concern is that Maybin, 29, is coming off a career season. Looking at his .383 BAbip, there is good reason to believe he is in store for a steep regression next year. Fortunately, scratching beneath the surface shows us that last season might simply be a continuation of his previous season, where the former top prospect finally turned the corner.
Crediting Braves' hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, Maybin made some mechanical adjustments and modified his approach, improving his contact rates. The result was an uptick in opposite-field hits, an approach he took to the extreme this past year, with 32.2% of his balls in play going to right field, by far the highest ratio of his career. Coupled with the best walk and strike-out rates of his career, signs point to Maybin finally maturing as a hitter and a good bet for league-average offense, even after accounting for some natural regression to the mean.
If there is an issue that should concern Angel fans, it is Cameron's ability to stay on the field. Since becoming a full-time player in 2011, here are his game totals:
A big reason his bat has not developed sooner than expected is that he has rarely had enough reps to adjust to big league pitching, missing significant time in three of the last four seasons. Has he been snake-bit, or should he be classified as injury prone? Let's examine his injuries from this past season:
March 1: Missed his first spring training game with a sore right shoulder, an undisclosed injury he suffered at home.
March 2: In his first spring game with the Tigers, he is hit by a pitch on his left wrist, suffering a hairline fracture.
April 17: During his rehab stint, he was hit by a pitch once again in the same wrist, causing a setback.
April 24: Still on his rehab assignment, Maybin dove to catch a fly ball, injuring his shoulder and setting him back another week.
June 16: Missed two games with left quad tightness.
July 23: Missed four games with a rib cage injury.
August 4: Strained his left thumb while making a catch, landing him on the 15-day DL.
August 29: Re-injured his thumb on a stolen base attempt, sat out five games.
Is it fair to call Maybin fragile? Obviously, there is not much he can do when a pitch breaks his wrist. Well, I suppose he can get out of the way, but let's call that one a fluke. Straining his thumb and his shoulder is concerning, especially when you consider he also missed the start of the 2014 season after hurting his shoulder on a diving catch during spring training (he also missed time with a 25-game amphetamine suspension, which he blamed on his ADD prescription expiring). He missed most of 2013 with wrist and knee injuries.
With the Angels, he will be manning left field rather than his customary home in center, where most of his injuries have taken place. Will a move to the corner help keep the hard-nosed outfielder from hurting himself? Obviously, he can dive and crash into walls just as easily in left, so I wouldn't be too optimistic. Fortunately, none of this injuries have been of the chronic variety or had any obvious lingering effects. His speed remains in tact, swiping 38 bags the last two seasons despite missing some time.
The bat should be fine. His defense has slipped, but a move to left should help mitigate some of that. Entering his age-30 season, can he reign in some of his aggressiveness to keep himself on the field? Billy Eppler seems hopeful. Going into a contract season, it would certainly be in Maybin's best interest to do so.