by Eno Sarris
A well-worn strategy for fantasy baseball is to wait on steals. Why pick a Michael Bourn (Average Draft Position = 87.38) early when Juan Pierre (ADP 232.91) might give you comparable statistics much later?
In that vein, it pays to examine late-round steals options, and it doesn’t get much later than Cameron Maybin (288.25). To be fair, it’s not exactly an active market that late in a draft, as ADPs in the high 200s are not nearly as stable as ADPs earlier in the draft; Maybin goes as early as 200 according to Mock Draft Central. To help hedge your emotional investment in Maybin, we’ll identify a couple of other late options for steals, too. That way you can wait on the risky speed-only picks as long as possible and feel optimistic about landing one of them.
Back to Maybin. Remember back on December 5, 2007, when the announcement came through the wire that the Florida Marlins had traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for a package headlined by Maybin and left-handed top-shelf prospect Andrew Miller? At the time, the consensus was that this was a Big Boy trade – top prospects for top players. It’s hard to separate the outcomes of the involved players from your appraisal of the trade when it occurred – as Rob Neyer so eloquently pointed out last week – so we won’t try too hard. We’ll just note that the shine has dimmed a bit on this trade in the interim, and it now seems to contain the worst parts of the business of swapping upside for currently performing talent. Sometimes the upside isn’t what you thought it was, and sometimes the current talent is not all it’s cracked up to be, either. (Sometimes the talent goes drinking before a big game, or develops Steve Blass disease.)
Maybin, in the meantime, has gone from the prospect that couldn’t miss to the prospect that couldn’t NOT miss: His career strikeout rate in the major leagues is 31.1%. To put that in perspective, Adam Dunn‘s career strikeout rate is 32.1%. The highest batting average of a player that struck out more than 30% last year was Ryan Howard‘s .279.
This has been a problem for Maybin his whole career, as he owns a 27.9% strikeout rate in the minor leagues as well. Looking through our rose-colored glasses, we can point to the fact that Maybin cut that rate to 19.5% last year in Triple-A. But even when dealing with that sample size we also have to admit that his 29% strikeout rate in the major leagues last year was just about the same as it ever was. There’s still room for growth, as Maybin is just 22 years old, with 257 career MLB at-bats under his belt. Still, without some luck on batted balls, it’s hard to envision Maybin hitting for a high average in 2010.
That said, Maybin’s Spider Graph from the Bloomberg Fantasy Tools shows that it’s not all about batting average. Of course, the spider graph also shows that Maybin comes up short in all categories currently.
Ouch. Even with a graph predicated on a mere 200-odd plate appearances in 2009, this is a damning appraisal of his skills. Let’s reach for those rose-colored glasses again and see if we can find reasons to be optimistic.
For one, we know he has speed, as he stole 81 bases on a 79% success rate in the minor leagues. So far he’s 10-for-13 in major league attempts, so that bodes well.
But what about his power and patience at the plate? If he exhibits those skills, we can forgive the batting average risk and enjoy the home runs and steals. The patience we’ll deal with first because patience usually translates to the major leagues eventually. Maybin has walked in 12.2% of his minor league plate appearances, and 8% of his major league PAs, so far. Given that the league average last year was 8.9%, gaining those extra walks will be important for the young center fielder.
Now, the power. His minor league isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average, ISO shows the non-singles a player produced) was .171. If Maybin can put up that number in the major leagues, he’d have power that was comparable to, say Jimmy Rollins (.173 ISO in 2009) or Brandon Phillips (.171 ISO in 2009). Go a little further up the list, though, and you get a good comp for Maybin – Nate McLouth. McLouth has a little more power (.194 career ISO), also strikes out a lot (over 20% in his first two seasons), walks around 10% of the time (9.3% career) and puts up the same kind of power/speed combo with a poor batting average (.260 career) that we might expect out of Maybin. Walk the power back a little, and push the speed forward a little, and you’ve got Maybin’s upside right now. (Mike Cameron (11.1% career BB%, 27.9% career K%, .198 career ISO) would make a good comp, but his speed is waning as he enters his 16th year in the bigs.
If you look at the different Maybin projections around the Web, you have the upper bounds defined by Bill James (as usual): .286 with 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases. To see the projections on the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tool, go to the Draft Kit, then pick the Draft List, then Search Mode. Then toggle the switch from picture view to grid view (midway up on left side). Then you can choose 2010 projections and sort by whichever stat or player you like or pick the groups like ‘Rising,’ ‘Falling,’ or ‘Sleepers.’
Add it all together and you get a player who could easily hit around .270 with up to 15 home runs and more than 20 steals this year. Nate-McLouth-lite is sounding like a good comparison right now – except you can get Maybin much, much later in your draft. If you want to wait really long for your steals, Maybin has some good upside and makes a solid late-round pick.
r other young speedsters you can nab late.)
For more information on Cameron Maybin and hundreds of other players check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.