By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Cameron Maybin, Center Fielder, San Diego Padres
2011 season: 137 G, 516 AB, .264 AVG, 82 R, 9 HR, 40 SB, .716 OPS
Sometimes even the most touted youngsters take a while to figure it out at the Major League level. That was the case with Maybin, a hotshot 20-year-old prospect for the Detroit Tigers back in 2007. Universally rated as one of baseball’s brightest up-and- comers, Maybin was one of the main players the Marlins received in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Three years later and his potential still unrealized, however, the Marlins essentially gave up on him by dealing him to the Padres for relievers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb.
Both hurlers performed well in Florida, but neither had the impact that Maybin had for San Diego. He set a career high in nearly every offensive category, sometimes by fantastic margins. He doubled his previous best for doubles (24; 12), nearly tripled his high for triples (8; 3) and more than quadrupled his leading stolen base mark (40; 9). As if that wasn’t enough, he also managed career bests with a .264 average and nine home runs.
Aside from the steals and triples, none of Maybin’s numbers last year overwhelm, but they are nonetheless significant. Petco Park is the most pitcher-friendly stadium in baseball, so the fact that Maybin enjoyed a banner season in his first year there speaks to how much he developed. Those statistics are also noteworthy because Maybin plays center field, a position that is one of the more offensively challenged in baseball. With the exception of the superstars – Matt Kemp, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew McCutchen – center fielders aren’t usually qualified to hit in the middle of the order. One who can play defense, hit for extra-bases and accumulate steals like Maybin is more valuable than two-thirds of the starters out there.
Turning 25 on April 4, Maybin still needs to improve some facets of his game. He is very much a free swinger (44 walks, 125 strikeouts last year), an issue that could prevent him from reaching his ceiling if he does not resolve it. And it would be nice to see him hit for a little more power, even in Petco – at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he certainly has the frame to send 15-20 out of the park. Still, considering his age and athleticism, those are very much improvements that Maybin is capable of making. If he does, he will find himself in the conversation as one of the best center fielders in the game – a future that many predicted all those years ago.