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2012 Phillies Player Preview: John Mayberry, Jr.

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You seen my dad in the stands lately? (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
You seen my dad in the stands lately? (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Player Pages: Fangraphs; Baseball Reference

Have the Phillies found another late blooming outfielder in John Mayberry, Jr.? Could be, couuulllld be.

Like Jayson Werth before him, Mayberry arrived in Philadelphia after his prospect star had dimmed with his previous team. While Werth was non-tendered and signed by the Phillies as a free agent, Mayberry came over in a trade of disappointing first round picks in a deal that sent Greg Golson to the Texas Rangers after the 2008 season. And while Golson has gotten some spotty outfield playing time for the Yankees, it's looking like the Phillies may have found, at the very least, a quality platoon outfielder who can play left, right, and center, as well as some first base.

The six foot six inch Mayberry's 2011 season started off with a bang, with a walkoff pinch hit RBI single on a drizzly Opening Day in Philadelphia. Through June 1, he compiled a .231/.316/.365 line in 117 plate appearances, earning a demotion to Triple-A. Returning to the big club on July 5, things went quite differently the rest of the way. Mayberry raked to the tune of a .301/.358/.607 line with 12 home runs in 179 plate appearances. Mayberry's notorious platoon split, which had previously relegated Mayberry to an occasional platoon start against a lefty starter, was less pronounced -- Mayberry managed an adequate .250/.330/.455 against right-handed pitchers, and slammed lefties to the tune of .306/.358/.595.

The improved performance in 2011 wasn't a BAbip fluke either; his .293 is well within normal range. So what was different? Mayberry, who had had a gruesome 30%+ strikeout rate in his previous big league stints, dropped his strikeout rate to under 19% in 2011. His walk rate also jumped to 8.8%. Mayberry, and the team's coaching staff, all paid some credence to a change in his batting stance, with a lower crouch and closer positioning to the plate.

The question is whether Mayberry can keep it up going forward. He showed some tremendous power in the low minors half a decade ago, but rarely dominated Double-A and Triple-A, at an age where Major League regulars should have thrashed inferior pitching. Would this be the first time an intelligent, talented, and pedigreed athlete "put it together" in his late 20s? Probably not, but I'm hard pressed to think of an example. Even the above-mentioned Werth didn't struggle with the difficulty of the Major League level, but with his health.

The Good Phight has been pretty careful about managing expectations for Mayberry. He's probably just about as good a bet to remain a productive regular as he is to fall flat on his face. That said, it'd be a huge boost for the Phillies, in 2012 and going forward, if Mayberry can stick in their outfield as a productive power right-handed bat for the next couple of seasons.