Mother Mayberry I?

So after that Johnny Damon debacle, I concede defeat. As it turns out, it cost $8 million for a year of Johnny Damon, which is waaaaay more than the Tigers ought to have paid. And to the question of whether a Damon-Werth-Ibanez outfield would have been good enough to get by, the response seems to be a resounding, “Hell no!”

Fair enough.

But there was a tangent of the conversation that I found interesting. Could the Phillies get rid of an outfielder and be OK with some combination of the following two players: Ben Francisco and John Mayberry?

Even if no one gets traded, this might wind up being an important question for this coming Phillies season. This very interesting post at Beyond the Box Score ranks the 30 major league teams in terms of how much value they lost to injury in 2009. The Phillies lost the fifth-least, which I can’t help but think contributed to their outstanding 2009 (though it throws into stark relief how bad the Astros were last year).

I shouldn’t have to remind any of you how easily injuries can derail a team’s season (just look at the Mets last year). So if one of the Phillies’ three outfielders goes down, we should know what to expect from their replacements. Francisco, a three-year major league veteran, is a known quantity at 29. Essentially take Shane Victorino, turn the defense, speed, power, throwing arm, and hitting for average tool knobs down about 10-20% each, and turn the hitting for power knob up about 30%. And he’s right-handed. If any Phillies outfielder went down, I’d be OK going into battle with Disco–you can win a World Series if he’s your seventh-best position player.

But the second backup outfielder, John Mayberry, Jr., is the real interesting one.

John Mayberry, as you probably know, is the son of John Mayberry, Sr., who spent 15 years in the majors as a power-hitting first baseman. His first major league hit was a three-run home run against the Yankees in the New Yankee Workshop last May. He’s an impressive specimen of a man, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 230 pounds. Even though he’s only had 60 major league at-bats, he’s 26 years old, only three years younger than Vic and Francisco.

The Ryan Howard parallels are obvious, both being huge men whose long swings generate lots of fly balls and lots of strikeouts.  Neither really walks as much as he should. Both are even from Missouri.

The biggest parallel, though, has to do with both Mayberry and Howard being late bloomers. Amateur American ballplayers usually take three roads to the majors. The first is to skip college and get to the majors around age 23, give or take a year or two. The second is to go to college, use that time to develop as one would in the minors, and get to the majors after only a season in the minors and start contributing immediately. Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Verlander, and Tim Lincecum have all done this in recent years. The third is to go to college, stew a little bit in the minors, and show up in the majors around age 26. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both got to the majors late after spending three years in college. Mayberry did the same, leaving after his junior season at Stanford with a few kinks to work out of his system.

The difference between getting to the majors at 23 and getting there at 26 is huge. Baseball players usually peak at 27 and plateau into their early 30s before slowly declining. According to Bill James, a career total of 300 Win Shares (explanation for the stat here) is the baseline for a hall of fame player. People have gotten in with less, and not gotten in with more, but only one position player has ever totaled 300 win shares for his career and not been a major league regular by 25. That was Washington Senators outfielder Sam Rice (yes, it was that long ago).

Getting to the majors early is a chicken-and-egg argument, admittedly. You total more stats if you get to the majors early, so your historical reputation is greater, but at the same time, a really good player would get to the majors more than a year before his peak.

Of course, no one’s suggesting that John Mayberry will be, or need to be a hall-of-famer. But can he be a productive everyday power hitter, or is he more of a career bench player?

The power’s there. He’s slugged a hair under .500 at every minor league stop. And I’m not sure how instructive those 60 major league plate appearances count for a whole lot, given the sample size and how often he was shuttled in and out of the lineup and, indeed, in and out of the major league squad.

But there are some red flags. I know I said that his 2009 in the majors isn’t a great predictor, but he struck out in 40% of his plate appearances. FORTY PERCENT. In order for him to stick in the majors, that number has to go back to the mid-20s, where it has been in the minors for him.

Second, even though Ryan Howard strikes out more than Mayberry and walks roughly the same percentage of the time, he’s a .279 career hitter. Even in the minors, Mayberry sits around .255. There are plenty of players who have been productive in the majors for a long time with a .255 batting average, including Mayberry’s dad. But that doesn’t take into account the slippage that will almost certainly occur when he’s facing major league pitchers full-time.

Finally, though Mayberry, as I’ve said, hits for a fair turn of power, he doesn’t hit for as much power as does Howard. Howard’s isolated power (a measure of how many hits go for extra bases; slugging percentage minus batting average) is usually around.300, a tremendous number. Mayberry’s minor league total is a hair above .200, which is good, but not great.

One plus for Mayberry? That small sample size suggests that Mayberry hits the curveball well, something that Howard has never figured out how to do and, if the trend holds, bodes well for his chances of sticking.

So to answer the original question: is John Mayberry going to be a good everyday player? He’s not going to be Ryan Howard, but not many people are. Mayberry’s stuck between a pedigree that screams masher and a few nagging minor league stats that might hold him back.

I think the most we could reasonably expect from Mayberry long-term is to be Pat Burrell without the walks or the spectacularly bad defense. I really hope he gets there, even if the stats suggest he might not.

But speculate as we might, Mayberry’s career will be like so many other things: you’ll never know until you stick him in the lineup every day and find out.



  1. BS

    February 21, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I could see Mayberry as being one of those .240-.250, 25HR guys that could start for a bad team like Pittsburgh or KC. But I don’t think he’s the type of player that a “good” team would want to rely on for much except for maybe a little power off the bench.

  2. Matt

    February 21, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Agreed BS. He’s definitely got pop, funny that Michael made the Burrell comparison, because I think that would be best case for him, however, if he had Burrell’s eye, he could be a solid, not spectacular everyday player. I don’t think we’ll ever see it come to fruition in Philly though.

    While we’re on the topic though, heard Big John hit pretty well in fall ball, something like a .313 line, 7 HR 33 RBI, in a 100+ ABS, and signficantly cut down his strikeout rate.

    As for Francisco, I’m yet to figure him out, I really like him off the bench, but I have my doubts about him being an everyday player, hell of a kicker in the Lee deal though, I will say that much.

    Damn, I’m ready for baseball.

  3. Pat Gallen

    February 21, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I think Francisco is the better player here. In 500 ABs in Cleveland he had 15 HR, 54 RBI in a much less powerful lineup. So Benny could have 18/75/.270 here everyday, which isnt bad.

    I’d like to see Mayberry succeed but I just dont know..its all about hitting that curveball and shortening up the swing a bit.

  4. Brooks

    February 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Good article.
    Mayberry needs to be playing on a daily basis, somewhere. I would think based on even your assessment, Mayberry would be good trade fodder. As far as Benny – he has never been a bench player. I think he needs to play more frequently as well.
    Injuries?? Scare me to death but your are correct – we are in a better position to handle an injury this year than in the past. If the unthinkable happens, maybe we will be as fortunate to have a quality replacement like Iguchi to ease the pain.
    I like the insurance.

  5. deebo

    February 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    i think rather than identifying a shortage of bench strength, this post is an indictment of the minor league system. franny and mayberry might be suitable replacements in the event of injury. castro and dobbs are not. and there is very little behind them should rollins, utley or polanco go down. as we wait for anthony hewitt to live up to his potential (at second base, somebody!!!) we only have outfielders and pitchers in every top prospect list. if any infielder goes down we can look forward to reliving the 2009 nightmare that was the mets.

    this team will get real old, real fast. you need to plug in a rookie, starting 8 or starting pitcher, every year unless you plan on signing a free agent every year like the yankees or red sox. brown and savery next year for werth and moyer. aumont and gillies/gose for lidge and ibanez the following with nothiong in the works for madsen. howard, hamels and rollins? victorino, ruiz, blanton, utley and polanco? enjoy 2010 while you can because 2012 is coming.

  6. derekcarstairs

    February 22, 2010 at 1:54 am

    You can’t say Mayberry is a late bloomer since he hasn’t blossomed yet.

    Mayberry is a famous baseball name; he has good genes; he’s big and looks like an athlete; he went to Stanford, so we might assume he is smart; and he’s better than Golson. That’s about it.

    Mayberry is nothing to get excited about. His minor league record in 2,000 AB is only OK. Right now, he is No. 6 on a 5-man bench; he is behind Francisco as our right-handed OF off the bench. Let him prove himself at Lehigh Valley; maybe, he can learn to play 1B and fill in for Howard occasionally against lefties.

  7. The Dipsy

    February 22, 2010 at 7:07 am

    I don’t know what we’re basing this optimism on Mayberry on. He had a good three weeks two years ago and thats it. Has not hit well in the minors. He is not doubt physically gifted but, and I differ with you hear, he has shown a propensity to chase breaking balls. In short, I don’t think he will hit in the majors. But I hope he does.

    The Dipsy

  8. George

    February 22, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Mayberry is only interesting because with his size, he has “potential.” The interesting aspect of his game is why he hasn’t lived up to it. So far, he appears to be, at best, one of those “AAAA” types, up and down until his options are up, popping up as a short-term injury replacement from whatever team’s minor league system he’s playing in. He may still learn, but it’s getting pretty late for him to develop much more.

    I think Francisco could probably do the job adequately on a full time basis. He doesn’t offer the production of some of the rest of the lineup, but as strong as that lineup is now, a little loss of production wouldn’t be a disaster.

    The Phils are pretty safe in the outfield. It’s the infield I’d worry about. Utley wears down, Polanco is older, Howard’s production can’t be replaced, Rollins plays a demanding position. The Phils got lucky once with a career month from Iguchi, but the odds of that happening again are nil. We know who we have as replacements, at least. The trouble is, they’re all scary.

  9. Chuck

    February 22, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Until Mayberry learns to hit something other than a fastball…I wouldn’t trust him at all.. Ben Fran has a little history and I’m comfortable with him filling in for a month if someone goes down….but not a s a regular for the entire season.

    Again, though, as I said about Dobbs yestarday….any bench player needs some REGULAR playing time in orde rto stay sharp..

    I would like to see Charlie give Francisco a few starts a week…wherever possible…and maybe use him as a defensive replacement late in games..

    Relegating him to strictly pinch-hitting duties…and we’ll see him rot on the bench.

  10. The Original Chuck P

    February 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I like Mayberry… I really do. You can’t teach 6’6″, 230 lbs. You can’t teach major league genetics… you can teach him how to lay off of the breaking ball and be more patient. The kid can kill the fastball. Maybe he has hit minor league curveballs but he has not shown the ability to hit major league curveballs and once the book was out on Big John, he struggled. If his eye improves and if he can find a way to stop flailing at those breaking pitches, watch out.

  11. The Original Chuck P

    February 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

    By the way… someone told me that Buster Olney blogged that Hamels looks good. That he was telling all of his fantasy buddies to think about drafting Hamels. Sounds good to me.

  12. Ed R.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Correct Chuck P. Olney was on Mike and Mike this morning and he said Hamels looked fantastic. His slider looked great and he has done well with working on his cut fastball. He supposedly has either talked with or spent a lot of time with Carlton to try and develop that pitch.

  13. Evan

    February 22, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Mayberry’s been around long enough to know he’s not getting any better. Thanks to his low OBP, he isn’t a serviceable major leaguer except maybe on the bench.

  14. Chuck

    February 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Ok..the fastball’s great…but, again…until he learns to hit a MAJOR LEAGUE breaking ball…..or manage it by laying off it…..consistently…then he’s really a career AAA player.

  15. Ed R.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Howard has yet to show he can hit a breaking ball, not at all vs Lefties and not so well vs Righties either.

  16. The Original Chuck P

    February 22, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Howard has otherworldly power… he can get away with not hitting lefty breaking balls. Mayberry has power but not Ryno power. He has to get better… I agree… but I like the raw tools that he possesses.

  17. Chuck

    February 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I don’t think you can even compare Howard to Mayberry…at anything. It’s not even apples and oranges….more like apples and steak.

  18. sh291

    February 22, 2010 at 11:19 am

    If Mayberry can figure it out I can see a Jermane Dye comparison.

  19. Don M

    February 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Mayberry is terrible.. he can hit fastballs, but nothing else . . . he will be lucky to be our 5th OF .but if we need him to play for a long stretch, or actually contribute, we’re in trouble

    I think if anyone goes down for a long stretch, Francisco is a really good 4th OF . .and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Quintin Berry (for his speed and defense) get called up at some point this year

  20. Bob in Bucks

    February 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Don’t worry about Mayberry, I don’t think the Phils are counting on him for much until he shows better plate discipline. Francisco is an adequate 4th outfielder. I don’t think Mayberry has proven himself. If Francisco goes down the Phils will have to work it out – maybe Dobbs can play LF or they will bring up the only 5 star OF we have in the minors – Brown.

  21. Chris.I

    February 22, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Francisco is def the better option, but I’d really like to see Charlie use him off the bench. Especially in late innings, close game, good closer with some high heat…Mayberry would come through in the clutch no doubt.

  22. Chuck

    February 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    A good closer with a nasty slider….and Mayberry is toast.

  23. Dan S

    February 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    you answered your own question.
    the answer is no.
    The phillies can’t platoon with two right handed pull hitters with low averages and high power ratings. this would not work.
    also, like some earlier comments stated, how can you call mayberry a late bloomer if he hasn’t blossomed yet, and where is this optimism coming from?

  24. PhxPhilly

    February 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    It is possible that Mayberry gets slightly better with more instruction but he is basically done progressing. In full time he’d likely hit .240 at best with 20+HR and 200Ks. He can play defense and run a little but not enough to be anything more than a bench/platoon player. It would great if he got hot for a month and could be traded for a useful middle infielder of similar caliber (optionable good fielding SS with great speed and low Ks, in trade off for little power) that could ride in the minors.
    Not that a trade for Mayberry would work but I’d really like to get Jason Donald back. He was hurt last year but his status seems to be downgraded to a bench only player. He would be a below average fielder at SS but may not be an embarassment and could likely hit a little. He would controllable for 5+ years and has a great attitude.

  25. Southweat Phillie

    February 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    How anyone can put together a phillies outfield and leave out “the flyin’ Hawaiian, Victorino is beyond me.As far as the outfield goes, the best outfield the phillies have had in years is that of Victorino, Werth and Ibanez (when healthy).

  26. Ryan H.

    February 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    by the time the phillies have an opening in their outfield, Domonic Brown will be ready to assume that every day role. He is probably one and a half years away from seeing some serious playing time with the big club I’d venture to guess. And that’s just in time for when Raul’s contract expires in two years. Brown will replace him and hopefully they sign werth to a long term deal. I don’t really see Mayberry as a guy who will be a legitimate everyday above average player. I don’t think most scouts see him as that either. But we shall see. I didn’t think Michael bourn would ever be a real player and he’s playing very well as the everyday centerfielder in houston.

  27. Tracey

    February 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I liked what I saw from both Francisco and Mayberry in spring training last year, and what I saw when they had a chance on the team. Having them in the back pocket makes me a lot more comfortable with next year’s prospects.

  28. RichieAllen

    February 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I agree with Southweat Phillie….I am psyched about our current outfield and dont know why anybody would want to tamper with it.(especially for this year).

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