Sunday, January 1, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer - 

Author’s Note: If you missed the previous installments you can find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here, Part V here, Part VI here, Part VII here, Part VIII here, Part IX here, and Part X here.

Billy Eppler, just like his predecessor, struck early in the offseason this November, acquiring the Angels left field solution for 2017 by trading for OF Cameron Maybin from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for RHR Victor Alcantara.

Initially a lot of fans were lukewarm to the deal and not particularly dazzled by the pickup but hindsight being 20/20 it may prove to be a pretty savvy move by our new GM. Let me explain why.

First of all, per Jeff Fletcher’s initial report on the trade, Maybin said that Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, in 2015, helped him adjust his mechanics and, in Maybin’s words, “… he pretty much changed my career”.

Perhaps more importantly you can see that change in Cameron’s batted ball profile:

Maybin’s overall fly ball percentage has reduced significantly, particularly against RHP. In 2015 and 2016 it was 6.3% and 8.1% lower than his career average. Just as importantly a lot of that reduction has been siphoned off into this line drive and ground ball percentages resulting in a higher batting average on balls in play (BABIP) which is what you would expect to see when you hit more line drives.

Essentially it appears that Cameron may have adjusted his swing plane slightly and in his more recent swings his back leg appears to bend a bit more and he does not seem quite as upright and stiff when making contact compared to earlier in his career (the author is not an expert in swing mechanics!).

No matter what the change is, this improvement in his batted ball profile is what you would like to see in a good leadoff hitter. Maybin has the ability to spray the ball to all fields (which he has always been pretty good at), steals bases at an efficient rate, runs the bases well, and puts pressure on the opponent’s defense.

Maybin is a center fielder by trade but for the Angels he will man left field in the 2017 season and act as an injury reserve if Trout or Calhoun hit the disabled list for any reason. He should provide plus defense in left field to what is quite likely the best overall outfield in all of baseball.

Team defense has been a primary goal for Billy Eppler and he has done a really great job focusing on it this offseason. High quality defense has the ancillary effect of reducing overall innings pitched and total pitch counts because more balls in play are converted to outs so this has an important side effect for the team as a whole and for a rotation and bullpen that will be challenged to pump out close to 1,400 total innings across a full MLB season.

It seems very likely to the author that the Angels will employ Cameron in the leadoff spot, particularly against RHP, for the 2017 season with Escobar hitting in the 2-hole which should create a really dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the order.

If Maybin can manage at least a .340 OBP and Yunel, hitting behind him, can match his career .351 OBP, they will provide a lot of RBI opportunities to Mike Trout hitting out of the 3-hole. This has goodness written all over it and if Cameron continues to perform this offense could be even more productive than it was last year.

On the off chance Cameron is injured the Angels recently signed OF Ben Revere to a 1-year deal. Revere should prove to be a capable reserve 4th OF to spell the regulars on their days off and should be a dynamic pinch runner and hitter off of the bench. It is also possible that Ben could enter a platoon with Maybin if Cameron regresses/reverts to his pre-2015 numbers. We will talk more about Revere in the Bench section of the Primer.

This trade has a lot of potential if you really believe in Maybin’s revamped mechanics -- and it is clear that something did change in his batted ball profile -- but the question will be whether or not it is a sustainable one.

If it is viable, watch out because Cameron could quickly become a new fan favorite in very short order.

Love to hear what you think!

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