Prospect Spotlight: Cameron Maybin

February 27, 2007

Cameron Maybin at the plate vs. Kane County in game 3 of the championship series (mwlguide/flickr)

(mwlguide / flickr)

Cameron Maybin | CF
Organization: Detroit Tigers | Drafted: 2005 #10 overall
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 200 lbs

When the New York Mets selected right handed pitcher Mike Pelfrey with their ninth pick in the 2005 draft, the Detroit Tigers (picking tenth) could only be some what disappointed as they saw their top pitching target whisked off the board only one spot before them. After all, there was a fresh out of high school center fielder who “Baseball America” dubbed as the “most promising available outfielder” and “third-best hitting prospect overall” that had miraculously dropped to them. 18-year old Cameron Maybin had dropped much lower than he should have due to the fact that speculation was running rampant that the would be difficult to sign and was looking for a massive bonus. This didn’t stop the Tigers.

Despite some rough contract negotiations between the two sides, Maybin and the Tigers finally came to terms. Maybin’s $2.65 million bonus came only after a four month hold out and missing the entire minor league season. But the question was now posed of whether or not this kid, who still as of today isn’t legally old enough to drink alcohol, was worth all the hassle. Was Maybin truly the “Steal of the Draft?”

History: Cameron Maybin played his high school ball at TC Roberson High School in North Carolina and proceeded to etch his name in not only the school’s history books, but the state of North Carolina’s as well. While holding numerous records at his high school, Maybin also holds the state record for hitting after ending his high school career with a batting average over .600. Maybin also collected a couple of awards including “2004 Baseball America Youth Player of the Year” and “2005 1st team High School All-American Outfield.” Needless to say this garnered the youngster a lot of attention from pro scouts and made his decision to enter into the draft and fore go college a whole lot easier.

Once all of the contract drama was put aside, the Tigers now needed to see how the young center fielder handled himself as a pro. In 2006 (after missing 2005 due to the contract hold out), Maybin finally took the field for the first time as a professional baseball player with the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps. He helped lead the Whitecaps to the Midwest League championship and in doing so was given “2006 Class A Playoff Performer Award” by MiLB.com. In 2006 Maybin put up some very solid numbers for his first professional season hitting .304/.387/.457 with 59 runs, 9 homers, 69 RBI, and 27 stolen bases.

Scouting Report: Maybin has a lighting quick bat which can generate a lot of power and because of this I project him to easily be a 30-plus home run hitter down the road for the Tigers. But because of his size, along with his uncanny power is his enlarged strike zone. Maybin’s swing can at times be a little long with those lanky arms and can have some troubles with breaking balls. While this has improved a lot, it can still pose a problem at times and contributes to his high strike out rates. With his speed and stellar base running instincts, it’s not out of the question to think of him as a potential 30-plus stolen base threat as well. When you combine his offensive threats along with his great range and powerful arm in center field, you can easily see why I think he will be one of the brightest stars by the start of the next decade and why this kid is really something special.

2007 should be an exciting season for the Tigers organization and its fans as they get to see another season of the exciting Maybin. After more people have gotten to see the future of the Tigers in action, some comparisons have been made. Some are saying Maybin is similar to Jermaine Dye with more speed or even Torii Hunter with a better bat or even of the Eric Davis mold. In fact his high school coach proclaimed his skills and smarts for the game to be that of Ken Griffey Jr. But when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter who you compare this kid to because what is obvious is that he is filled with natural talent.

While some players claim to be the “Steal of the Draft,” in Maybin’s case this is very much the case.

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Pick to Click #1

February 26, 2007

Periodically between now and the start of the regular season I will write about a player (or players) who I think are going to take their game to the next level in 2007. This can be a youngster fresh off the farm or even an old name with new surroundings. Basically it will be anyone (or any group) I think will make both fans and teammates say “wow.”

2007 Pick to Click #1: Lance Berkman & Carlos Lee, Houston Astros

Now I know you are saying to yourself, “but Berkman and Lee are already great players.” Well yes, this is true, but in Berkman’s case, the difference now is he has a legitimate hitter behind him in the lineup. Last season he had guys like Morgan Ensberg (.235/.396/.463, 23 HR, 58 RBI) and Aubrey Huff (.250/.341/.478, 13 HR, 38 RBI with Houston), who have had good seasons in the past but nothing special recently, hitting behind him. Yet somehow despite having absolutely no protection in the lineup, Berkman was able to put up monster numbers. But in preparing for 2007, the Astros made sure Berkman had protection as they went out and signed a real life clean-up hitter in Carlos Lee. A lot of people shook their heads when the Astros inked the slugger to a 6 year, $100 million contract, but I am one of the few who did not. Sure this is a lot of money over 6 years for a guy in his 30’s, but think about this: over the past three seasons in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Texas, Lee has averaged a .290 batting average, 33 homers, and 109 RBI. That’s pretty impressive for someone you don’t hear much about.

BERKMAN & LEE 2006 STATISTICS
NAME AVG R HR RBI OBP SLG OPS
Berkman .315 95 45 136 .420 .621 1041
Lee .300 102 37 116 .355 .540 895

So now, the superstar-talent-who-never-gets-enough-credit Berkman will have someone to protect him and not allow pitchers to pitch around him, and Lee (a pull hitter) will be in a stadium that’s not that much deeper to left field (315 feet) than most softball fields I play on. Could we see a set of teammates hit 40-50 homers together? It’s not out of the question.

Needless to say, the Astros will have no problems scoring runs out of the three and four holes this season. The only question now is can the rest of their lineup hit around them. Unfortunately this may be too much to ask.


Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable

February 26, 2007

Just a quick note this morning (I’ll be back later with more). As I mentioned here last Wednesday, I was asked to join the “Pittsburgh Lumber Co.” as a guest each Monday to be part of their series “Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable.”

Today my first appearance is up and you can view it by clicking here. Let me know what you think about my debut by either commenting here, on their page, or even via email.

Oh and if you have trouble finding me on it, I’m listed as “Matthew from The Diamond Cutter” (the last person to answer on each question).


Who Wood Know Better?

February 25, 2007

Since its a slow news day, I thought I would post this video on how bats are made. I’m sure most of you have seen how this works, but I’ve always been fascinated how much detail goes into making these.

Also if any of you currently play baseball and are interested in trying a different brand of bat, you should give MaxBat a try. A couple of years ago I ordered the Pro Model A10 at 34″ long with a black handle and cherry barrel. It also happens to be the same version Manny Ramirez has used. I must say, MaxBat makes a great bat with very nice weight distribution and feel. I highly recommend it to anyone who plays baseball (with wood bats) or would just like a collectible.


2007 Preview: AL East

February 23, 2007

It’s Friday which means another division for me to review for the upcoming 2007 season. This is number five with only one to go. If you’d like to review my others, you can click them below:

NL West / NL East / NL Central / AL West

This week’s topic: American League East

The AL East has been a top heavy division for years. It seems as if its the Yankees-Red Sox, Red Sox-Yankees every year. That’s until last season when the Blue Jays were finally able to crack second place after the Red Sox suffered a barrage of injuries at the end of the summer. This year will be no different as the Yankees and Red Sox battle for the top spot but this time with a third dancing partner in Toronto just waiting for their opportunity.

1.) Boston Red Sox
This may be my Sox bias shining through but I have to say, them winning the division makes sense. Not only do they have the best 3-4 punch in baseball (Papi and Manny), but now they have a supporting cast around them that is healthy. Last season, two big pieces to this lineup played injured virtually all season. Centerfielder Coco Crisp and team captain Jason Varitek were plagued with nagging injuries for the whole season and just couldn’t get into any offensive grooves. If Coco can regain his numbers he had in Cleveland in 2004 and 2005 (about .300, 15 HR, 70 RBI, .800 OPS) then all his struggles of last season will be forgotten. The same goes for V-Tek. If he can be healthy all year he will put up a .285 average, 20 homers, 75 RBI which will be huge coming out of that six or seven spot. Plus the addition of a (hopefully healthy) JD Drew will make this a “Yankee type” lineup from top to bottom.

By now you know the name Daisuke Matsuzaka so I won’t go too deep into details about him as he has been (and will be) covered to death. But his presence in this rotation will be enormous. But the big question will be how Jonathan Papelbon adjusts to his new role as a starting pitcher. Last season he hit the league by storm as a closer posting 35 saves with a minuet 0.92 ERA. But due to pitching everyday he developed arm problems and now will be inserted into the starting rotation where he will only have to pitch every fifth day. This will be one of the best rotations in baseball in 2007 if guys like Schilling and Beckett can stay healthy.

Bottom Line: This race is going to come down to the final month if not week. The thing that will carry the Red Sox to the division will be their depth. The Yankees have always been known as the deepest team in their rotation and lineup but the Sox have taken that crown and because of that, will take the division crown.

2.) New York Yankees
Yankees fans had better enjoy Alex Rodriguez while they can because I am almost certain he will opt out after this season. The mistreatment he receives from the New York fans and media is just unacceptable. But putting that aside, its tough to gage how he will react to all this. If he continues to let it get in his head, he will continue to struggle in the field and eventually more at the plate. If that happens, they Yankees will have a lot of trouble contending. But what they will have is a full season of Bobby Abreu and that will be a great thing for this team. Abreu’s move to the Yankees relieved the pressure to hit home runs and now allows him to do what he does best, get on base.

As for the rotation, let’s just assume the Clemens has no intentions of coming back to the Yankees. If that’s the case, this Yankees rotation has some question marks. Setting aside the question of how their rotation will round out, there is always concern when you have two older pitchers. Mike Mussina (15-7, 3.51 ERA) had a very solid season until he ran into some injury troubles down the stretch. If he can regain form along with the returning Andy Pettitte (14-13, 4.20 ERA), then the Yankees will be just fine.

Bottom Line: I just get the feeling that someone in this Yankees rotation is going to get hurt this season and they will end up having to scramble to find a replacement. There’s also the possibility that mega-prospect Philip Hughes could be called up sooner than the September call-ups. This could be a little too fast as the ideal thing would be to wait until 2008. But one thing is for sure, if the Yankees are lagging behind the Sox around the All-Star break, they will go out and fill whatever holes they might have.

3.) Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays quietly snuck into second place last season in the NL East. They were lead by centerfielder Vernon Wells and by less publicized Lyle Overbay. Overbay once again put up great numbers in 2006 (.312/.372/.508, 22 HR, 92 RBI), but this wasn’t the first time. Over the past three seasons Overbay has averaged 20 homers and 45 doubles. He along with veteran free agent slugger Frank Thomas (.270/.381/.545, 39 HR, 114 RBI) have made this middle of the order something to talk about.

The ace of this staff has solidified himself as one of the best in the game. Roy Halladay fought through the injury bug in 2006 to post a 16-5 record and 3.19 ERA. This rotation will live and die by Halladay (much like the Twins and Johan Santana) which means for them to compete in the American League East this season, not only will Halladay have to be healthy all season, but he will also need to post another Cy Young caliber season.

Bottom Line: If the Blue Jays want to compete this season they will need a lot of help from their pitching staff. They have the lineup to compete, but there are some uncertainties at the back end of the rotation. If they can get good starts from them consistently, then they should be right in the thick of the race.

4.) Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are doomed to finish fourth again. There is just too big of a gap in talent level between them and the top three teams in the division. The Orioles did make a move to sign free agent Aubrey Huff during the off season in hopes that he can return to his 2003-2004 form in which he averaged a little over .300, 32 homers, and 105 RBI. If that Huff comes to Baltimore, it will go a long way in their success.

The Baltimore rotation has a lot of holes in it. Other than their ace Erik Bedard (15-11, 3.76 ERA), they have a lot of question marks in it. After Kris Benson bowed out due to injury (apparently he’s not having season ending surgery so who knows what his deal is), the O’s went out and signed veteran right hander Steve Trachsel (15-8, 4.97 ERA with the Mets in 2006) to round out their shaky rotation. This is one of their short comings and will hurt them and prevent them from competing here in 2007.

Bottom Line: Barring any miracles, the O’s are not going to be a factor in 2007. Sure they’ll win some games and go on some runs, but they won’t give the Yanks or Sox any real threat.

5.) Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Now the only reason I have the Devil Rays behind the Orioles is because of the inexperience they have. But where they lack in inexperience, they more than make up for in young, raw talent. Looking at this year’s team and analyzing their farm system, one can see that this team has a very bright future ahead of them. Going into 2007, they have one of the best outfields in the game highlighted by Carl Crawford. Crawford has stayed steady with an over .300 average the past two seasons and had over 50 stolen bases three out of the past four years. Not only that but we have seen his homer and RBI numbers increase each year as well. Now that the Rays have become more offensively potent with players improving and the full-time addition of Delmon Young, they should score more runs which will help them win more games than ever.

While the rotation may not be as strong as the team’s offensive abilities, it is headlined by one of the best young pitchers in the game, Scott Kazmir. Kazmir has shown incredible stuff posting ERAs of 3.77 and 3.24 over the past two years, in particularly against big division foes. In fact, in 2006 Kazmir continued to show his dominance over the big-time AL East teams like the Red Sox (3-1, 2.33 ERA), New York Yankees (0-2, 3.97 ERA), and Toronto Blue Jays (1-0, 1.32 ERA). This guy is only going to get better and is the center piece around the youth movement in Tampa.

Bottom Line: This group that is about to join the major league roster in the next couple of seasons is going to be something special. If Tampa wasn’t stuck in the aggressive alpha-male battle that is the AL East, they could definitely be an interesting team to watch. In the mean time, they will just have to settle for making some noise.


Manny Faces

February 22, 2007

There has been a lot of chatter the past couple of days about Manny Ramirez and his lackadaisical attitude towards his responsibilities as a professional ball player. Sure the way he carries himself isn’t exactly the conventional way, but the fact that people are surprised by his recent actions just doesn’t make sense to me.

For years now the Boston Red Sox, Red Sox Nation, and the media have known this is who Manny is. Sometime Manny gets caught up in his own world and can flake out a bit. But you know what? When you have someone as talented as Mr. Ramirez, you take the good with the bad. The Red Sox knew when they gave him that long-term contract what kind of personality he had and accepted that knowing full well that he also brought you a yearly average of about .320, 35-40 home runs, and about 120-130 RBI. Not only that but his teammates love him (other than the flaking out) and he is beloved by Sox fans everywhere.

MANNY RAMIREZ STATISTICS
YEAR AVG R HR RBI OBP SLG OPS
2006 .321 79 35 102 .439 .619 1058
Career .314 1258 470 1516 .411 .600 1011

Now I’m in no way defending what Manny does when he pulls this kind of stuff on his team, but I am saying that no one should be this surprised. While I am a bit biased being a Sox fan and the fact that Manny has always been one of my favorite players, I can look at this logically and tell you that the old saying “Manny being Manny” isn’t just some random adage.

It’s a way of life.


A Pirates Life For Me

February 21, 2007

Just a quick announcement today. Beginning this Monday February 26, I will be joining “Pittsburgh Lumber Co.” each Monday for a weekly discussion about the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I’m very excited to be part of their very popular and thought provoking series “Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable.” I will be joining other knowledgeable baseball writers and bloggers who have a wealth of knowledge about the Pirates organization.

When Cory Humes (Director of Baseball at Most Valuable Network and baseball writer for “Pittsburgh Lumber Co.”, “A New Pirates Generation“, and the new Pirates minor league site, “Sandlot Swashbucklers“) contacted me regarding joining the panel, I jumped at the opportunity. They do a great job at MVN and I am very excited to join them in discussing what is sure to be a big year for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So please take some time and check out their links (as always they are listed to the right under the “Blogroll”) and I’ll make sure to let you know each Monday as a reminder of where to check out what I have to say about the Bucs.

Thanks again everyone for all your support!