Cameron Maybin has been good. The Angels left fielders of years past have not been good. Cameron Maybin, therefore, has been better than the Angels left fielders of the recent past. These are facts.
When Maybin was brought on board this past offseason in a trade that sent minor leaguer Victor Alcantara to the Detroit Tigers, the hope was that Maybin would just provide some real production and not be an anchor in the lineup and in the field. As an impending free agent who had inconsistent results in his career, the general hope was he could provide near league average value. The Angels have received far more than they probably even expected, with Maybin having something of a career year so far. Before talking about Maybin’s contributions and his potential future with the team, it’s worthwhile to look back at the production the Angels received from the left field position before this year.
From 2015 to 2016, the Angels struggled mightily to find an everyday left fielder who provided value. In fact, the Angels struggled to find a left fielder who could produce better than a replacement level player. During this time frame, the collective group of left fielders put up a putrid -0.7 fWAR(Fangraphs version of Wins Above Replacement), the 3rd worst mark among left field production among teams. They were, however, the worst offensive unit, putting up the worst wRC+ at 67. Whoever they brought in-Daniel Nava, Matt Joyce, David Murphy or David DeJesus- didn’t provide any meaningful production. The left field problems for the Angels didn’t just begin in 2015 though. After the 2010 season, the Angels made the abomination of a trade that brought Vernon Wells and his albatross contract to Anaheim. Wells put up 0.7 WAR in 208 games in Anaheim before his tenure in Anaheim ended. After Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson couldn’t help bring the Angels to the playoffs in 2012, management brought in Josh Hamilton to fix the left field problem. Hamilton had 3.1 WAR in 240 games before he was sent back to the Rangers along with his entire contract. The Angels spent approximately 200 million dollars to receive 4 wins above replacement, a nightmare-ish waste of resources. The team did receive roughly league average production from the left field unit in 2014, thanks to a solid combination of Collin Cowgill and Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout’s 114 games at the position in 2012 and 2013 were obviously great as well but other than that, it’s been a giant hole since for a while.
Cameron Maybin appears to be the answer the Angels have been trying to find in left field as he’s on pace to be the most productive non-Trout left fielder since Garret Anderson in 2003, when Anderson racked up 5.1 WAR. By traditional stats, maybe Maybin doesn’t appear to be that great, evidenced by his .270 batting average, 6 home runs and 17 runs batted in. With the wealth of statistics we have access to now, we can look past those and see just how productive Maybin has been.
Offensively, Maybin has gotten on base at a well above average .377 clip while slugging .433. His 124 wRC+ is the 2nd best mark on the team, behind that Trout fellow. He’s walking more than ever, pulling the ball with more authority and his exit velocity is up. All 3 of those results have led to a far more productive Cameron Maybin, who is on pace to set career highs in on base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs and wRC+. Maybin has also been a force on the bases, which has been a huge addition for the Angels lineup that lacked any speed for a few years. Maybin’s 23 stolen bases rank 4th in the majors and he’s on pace to break his career high mark of 40 bases set in 2011 with the Padres. He ranks 33rd in Base Running Runs with 2.0 BsR, which is partially lower than you’d think due to the 9 double plays he’s hit into. Still, he’s running the bases quite well and he’ll likely finish top 25 in Angels team history for stolen bases in a season. Defensively, Maybin has shifted over to center field to cover for Mike Trout and has done an admirable job. His numbers in left field have been great so far too(5 defensive runs saved and 0.7 UZR). Statcast has backed up the idea of Maybin providing quality defense as he’s caught 28.6% of his 4 star catch opportunities and 85.7% of his 3 star catch opportunities, both above average numbers. He hasn’t had any 5 star catches but only a limited set of players have even made one such catch this season. You combine all of the different aspects of Maybin’s production and you get great results, with Maybin accumulating 1.8 WAR in 57 games. Even if he plays around 100 games, he’s set to rack up around 3-3.5 WAR, which is a vast improvement over the previous left fielders occupying an Angels uniform.
Obviously, the Angels are enjoying the production they’re getting from Cameron Maybin this year but they also have to keep an open mind about the future with him. With free agency coming up, Anaheim seems like an almost perfect fit for Maybin, who also fits in with the Angels since he’ll likely cost less than the premier free agents. While the Angels have plenty of spending money this coming offseason, around 50 million dollars, they’ll have to fill holes at 2nd base, 3rd base, left field and on the pitching side of things. While Maybin has produced at an above average rate the past 2 years, his shorter track record and injury history means he probably won’t receive the big contract he might be expecting. If the Angels were smart, they’d try to start exploring a deal for Maybin before he reaches free agency and finds other suitors who can pay up. With all of the potential outfield minor league options far away(Jordon Adell, Brandon Marsh and Jahmai Jones are all in the lower levels of the minors), Maybin might represent a real 2-3 year option for this Angels team after 2017. It’s unclear what market he may have but a 2 year deal for around 25-30 million dollars with a club or player option may be enticing enough to keep Maybin around for a few more years. Regardless of how the Angels do in the following weeks, bringing Cameron Maybin back for beyond 2017 should be a high priority for the team.