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Cameron Maybin And The Padres Are Off To A Bad Start

Posted By Mike Petriello On March 3, 2014 @ 12:00 pm In Daily Graphings,Padres | 42 Comments

On Sunday afternoon in Arizona against the Dodgers, San Diego center fielder Cameron Maybin made a nice diving catch to rob Juan Uribe of an extra-base hit:

maybin_dive_2014-03-02

Wonderful! That’s a fantastic play, even if one perhaps that might have been made much easier by the right fielder, Rymer Liriano, although you understand if a young player with just 53 professional games above Single-A may have hesitated to call off a major league center fielder. Still, Maybin made the play, and he looked good doing it. Great play, beautiful day, all is good in the world.

Except, after spending most of the next inning looking like this… 

maybin_grimace_2013-03-02

…Maybin was forced to leave the game in the middle of the fifth after continuing to be in obvious pain, grimacing and grabbing his left shoulder. We don’t yet know the extent of Maybin’s injury, though this quote via MLB.com’s Corey Brock doesn’t exactly lend any encouragement, in an article teased as “Opening Day (and possibly longer) in jeopardy for Maybin”:

Maybin, who missed all but 14 games in 2013 due to injuries, will have an MRI Monday morning, though the initial diagnosis suggested a fairly serious injury, said general manager Josh Byrnes.

Maybe this is premature until we get the results of that MRI in a few days, but general managers don’t often use words like “fairly serious” without having some sort of indication of the truth, and Maybin’s recent injury history suggests a player who doesn’t quite get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to health concerns. (Update: It’s a ruptured bicep, and he’ll be out 2-3 months. Brutal.)

As Brock’s quote indicates, Maybin hardly played at all last season, getting into just 10 April games before missing most of the next two months due to a sore right wrist that had cost him some time in 2012 as well. When he finally returned in June, he played in all of four games — reaching base seven times and hitting a homer — before a dive for a ball in Coors Field injured the PCL in his left knee and cost him the remainder of the year. While on the shelf, he had September surgery in an attempt to finally fix the ongoing wrist issue.

And that’s just over the last two seasons. Here’s John Sickels, writing at Minor League Ball, back in 2010:

He’s also had injury issues, including off-season surgery this year to repair a labrum tear, a pulled groin, and current shoulder soreness keeping him on the DL at New Orleans.

The labrum operation mentioned there was on the same left shoulder that he injured over the weekend. So was the “current shoulder soreness” referenced above from four years ago, and while I can’t confirm right now which shoulder it was that cost him most of the Arizona Fall League in 2007 or a month of play earlier that season, shoulder injuries are clearly not a new concern. (It’s at this point you can thank me for not naming this post, “Cameron Maybin Can’t Shoulder the Load.” I’ll show myself out.)

Since he debuted so young, at age 20 for the 2007 Tigers, Maybin still doesn’t even turn 27 until next month, and so he should be in or near the prime of his career. Instead, this is yet another blow to a player who once seemed so promising that he was one of the centerpieces of the deal that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Perhaps rushed to the bigs, Maybin hit just .257/.323/.391 across parts of three seasons (544 plate appearances) for the Marlins, then after being dealt to San Diego for two relievers (Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica), he had what seemed like a breakout 2011. Despite a mere .316 wOBA and a high strikeout rate, 40 stolen bases and plus defense in center helped add up to 4.2 WAR, and it earned him a 5/$25m extension following the season. But Maybin took a step back in every way in 2012 — it’s hard to make a .290 wOBA look okay, especially when he was less valuable on the bases — and then 2013 was a total wash. So far, 2014 isn’t off to a better start. Health is a skill, and so far Maybin has shown little indication that he’s got this skill. It might be what prevents him from having the career so many thought he could.

Assuming he’s out for some length of time (management is already saying he “likely won’t be ready” for Opening Day), the Padres can handle this pretty well, because they didn’t have Maybin essentially at all last season, and they handled it pretty well then, too. Will Venable (2.9 WAR) took a nice step forward, hitting 22 homers (along with a good-enough center fielder and his fourth straight season of 20 or more steals), and he’s a more than adequate fill-in for Maybin in center, even if he’s unlikely to repeat that power surge. Chris Denorfia (3.9 WAR) showed he could be more than a fourth outfielder; Carlos Quentin, during the rare occasions when he was both healthy and not suspended, continued to hit enough (.372 wOBA) to show why teams continue to put up with his partial availability. Kyle Blanks is still kicking around, and Reymond Fuentes is all but ready, and now Seth Smith is in the picture, with a clearer path to playing time should guys like Venable and Denorfia be manning center rather than blocking him in the corners. Many seemed to think that San Diego would deal off an outfielder this winter to clear up the glut, but those problems usually work themselves out, which usually means, “someone’s going to get hurt.” Here we are.

The Padres have outfielders, but what they don’t seem to have is any luck. There was a lot to like about last year’s roster, and yet they still lost 86 games. This year, if the National League has anything resembling a sleeper, they appeared to be it. Maybe that’s partially because everyone’s favorite non-playoff team to make it this year is Washington, and they can hardly be called a “sleeper,” but because if you squinted hard enough, you could see things coming together for San Diego. You could see Chase Headley getting over his knee surgery and entering a contract year hoping to look a lot more like the 2012 Headley than the 2013 Headley. You could hope that Cory Luebke would be able to contribute to the staff; you could pray that Josh Johnson stayed whole and Yasmani Grandal returned strong from knee surgery and that Everth Cabrera returned from his PED suspension productive and that Ian Kennedy returned to his Arizona glory and that Andrew Cashner fully broke out.

So far, 2014 has been the opposite of that. Luebke blew out his elbow for a second time. Headley strained a calf and is expected to miss a few weeks of camp. Highly touted pitching prospect Max Fried was shut down with the dreaded “sore forearm,” though he wasn’t expected to contribute to the big club this year anyway. Now Maybin is down, potentially impacting regular season play. It’s only March 3, and the prevailing opinion already seems to be, “lord, what next?”

A team like the Padres can contend, but they need a lot of things to go their way in order to get into the wild card race against the Pirates and Braves and Reds and Diamondbacks and Phillies of the world. Our current projected standings have them as a .500 team, five games better than they were last year. In order to get into the race, they need to be at least six or seven games better than that, but as I wrote a few weeks ago when Luebke went down, very few of those things have gone their way recently, particularly when it comes to keeping their young pitchers healthy. They need young players like Maybin to blossom into contributors, not continue to be huge question marks as far as health and availability. The more players like Maybin and Luebke and Headley get hurt, the more they absolutely need walking injury problems like Quentin and Johnson to stay healthy. It’s not a good place to be in, for either player or team.


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