Having worked as a scout in the past, one of my favorite days of the MLB season is draft day. I love to have my Baseball American Draft Preview in front of me while the picks come across the screen, and dream as an area scout might on each pick. Living in Milwaukee, I have for the past 10 years or so focused in on the player I felt they should choose when draft day comes.
In the 2005 First Year Player Draft, that player was Cameron Maybin. I loved the speed, loved that he was a CF, the premium athletic ability, loved the gap power and the potential for some power as he developed. Maybin was ranked #3 in the the BA Draft Preview and listed him as having a ceiling between Preston Wilson and Vldimir Guerrero.
The Brewers selected Ryan Braun that year, who was ranked 14th in the BA Preview, and went on to win the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year award, and is one of the front runners for this years MVP Award. Since that day I have always maintained my belief that Maybin was my guy, and until this year was ridiculed for it.
This year, now with his 3rd organization (the San Diego Padres), Maybin has finally showed some of the promise that led the Tigers to select him 10th in that draft and give him a $2.6 million signing bonus. Between Draft Day 2005 and today, Maybin was probably rushed to the major leagues by the Tigers at age 20 in only his first full season of professional baseball, traded to the Marlins in a package that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, was sent up and down to the Minor Leagues twice in 2 years while with the Marlins, and then finally traded to the Padres this past off season for a couple of relief pitchers.
Maybin is having a breakout season: His defense has been good, his speed has been on display, and he has held his own at the plate.
Maybin's problem during those earlier years was always strike outs, tons and tons of strike outs. He had problems with pitch recognition and making contact. This year he has dramatically cut his strike out rate from a career number of around 28% down to 21%. He has always had a problem with breaking pitches, but this season he is hammering fast balls, probably because he is seeing them that much more given his position in the Padre batting order.He is still succeptible to sliders but has improved his performance on change ups and curve balls.
His walk rate has decreased a bit, and although he isnt making any more or less contact, on balls inside or outside the strike zone, he is making better contact overall. He has had a bit of luck this season with a .332 BABIP, but if you regress it down to league average, it probably doesnt hurt his overall value too much.
He is on pace for a 4.4 WAR season, and it wouldnt be out of the realm of possibility to expect another all star level season from him next year. I would realistically project him for at least a 4 WAR season next year. And that number would be a conservative estimate given he will be entering his age 25 season next year, and one would expect that he could improve nicely over the next 3 years entering his peak.
A lot of his value this season has come from CF defense (7.8 UZR) and an impactful baserunning performance. These two things have been expected of him from day one being a speedster with great athletic ability. But is it foolish of me to proclaim still that Maybin was "my guy" still over a Ryan Braun? I dont think so.
This is a ranking of total WAR compiled for players from the 2005 Draft through their age 24 season (according to fangraphs):
- Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals, 19.5 WAR
- Justin Upton, RF, Arizona Diamondbacks, 15.6 (through age 23 season)
- Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates, 12.9
- Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies, 12.3
- Jay Bruce, RF, Cincinnati Reds, 11.3
- Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewers, 8.1
- Colby Rasmus, CF, St. Louis Cardinals, 8
- Cameron Maybin, CF, Detroit Tigers 7
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox, 5.6
- Matt Garza, RHP, Minnesota Twins, 5
If Maybin maintains his speed, improves on his walk rate, and contact quality, there is no reason to thinkt hat Maybin isnt one of the stars from that vaunted 2005 draft. He probably wont ever be able to put up the offensive numbers that Ryan Braun does, since he plays in extremely pitcher friendly Petco Park, as well as a good portion in Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park, but his defense, baserunning, and overall game should keep him in very good company for the foreseable future.
People who might think my viewpoint on this issue is crazy (Brewers should have drafted Maybin in 05 instead of Braun), might not realize how close the two players are in performance, or that Braun was only the 6th best player takin in that draft. Obviously, with any of the players on that list above, or even some that didnt make it such as Ricky Romero, your team has a nice player on their hand, and the true difference between all of the players cant be determined until their careers are over.
But it is refreshing to see that some of the high school players that were taken in that draft that were possibly thought of as failures because they were being compared to the college guys from that draft, are starting to show how smart those draft picks really were. And for me, nice to finally see "my guy" start to come into his own.