What if John Mayberry Jr. Stinks?

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Pessimism normally isn’t my bag.

I don’t get down with folks who are always looking for the negatives in life.  I like to consider myself an optimist.

I honestly believe that one day, my 10 month old child, who to this day has never once slept through the night, will give his mother and me more than five consecutive hours of rest.  I honestly believe that the Republican Party will one day nominate a candidate for President who can actually piece together six coherent words at a time or who isn’t worth six kascillion dollars (a kascillion is ten bojillions, by the way).  And I honestly believe that the third Batman movie isn’t going to be a huge letdown after the second film, “The Dark Knight and His More Compelling Pal, The Joker.”

But there is a thought that haunts me as spring training inches ever closer.

What if John Mayberry Jr. stinks?

Or, to put it a little more nicely, what if Mayberry isn’t the player we all saw in the second half of 2011?

Consider that Mayberry didn’t play his first Major League game until he was 25.  That alone isn’t a big deal, of course.  Chase Utley didn’t make his Major League debut until he was 24.  Sometimes circumstances out of a player’s control delay his arrival time.  But that wasn’t the case with Mayberry.  He never performed at a level which made it difficult for the big league club to keep him off their roster.

Consider also that Mayberry never showed any signs of being a productive player until July of last season.  From July 4th through the end of the year, Mayberry posted a slash line of .301/.358/.607 for an OPS of .965, while hitting 12 HRs and knocking in 35.  Those are numbers that, if stretched out over a whole season, would net him 33 HRs and 102 RBI.

Kind of Jayson Werth-esque, no?

But here’s where the red flags get raised.  Mayberry’s batting average on balls in play during that same stretch last year (BAbip) was .308, indicating that he was lucky so many of the balls he put into play found holes.  A drop in BAbip should be expected in 2012, which should bring some of his numbers down.  Also, don’t forget that this wasn’t a guy who was overly productive during his two cups of coffee in the Majors in 2009 and 2010, where he posted a slash line of .232/.274/.536 for an OPS of .810.  And his minor league numbers were pretty average as well.  In 359 games at AAA (1361 ABs), Mayberry hit .263/.322/.445 for an OPS of .767.  His best AAA season was in 2010, when he had an OPS of .740 with 15 HR and 65 RBI.

These are not awful numbers, but certainly not figures that would make you think this guy is a bona fide Major League starter.

The Phillies are resting an awful lot of their offensive production in 2012 on the shoulders of Mayberry based on his breakthrough half a season in 2011.  (Oh wait, I forgot that Laynce Nix is also in the equation.  The cavalry has arrived! Seriously, if Nix plays more than two or three times a week, we should all poke ourselves in the head with a fork.)

So, the big question is… is John Mayberry Jr. the second coming of Jayson Werth?  Or is he the second coming of Ricky Jordan?

Yes, yes, yes, I know Mayberry changed his stance at the plate, supposedly allowing himself to see the ball better.  And who knows, maybe the former first-round pick found something last year and flipped a switch.  It’s possible.

And of course, the mildly abused Dom Brown hangs around the periphery as well.  If he rakes in AAA this year while Mayberry struggles, the organization’s former golden boy may yet play himself into the good graces of his disgruntled handler, Mr. Amaro.

Frankly, Mayberry deserves the chance to prove he can be the guy.  He showed enough last year that he should be given every opportunity to prove his second-half surge wasn’t a fluke.

Still, the Phils are putting a whole lot of faith in a guy who has had one productive half of a season under his belt.  And, if he ends up pulling a Ben Francisco on them, they better have a Plan B ready to go better than the Laynce Nix Show in left field.

You can follow John’s Phillies thoughts on Twitter @FelskeFiles and on Facebook.  He can also be emailed at [email protected].

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