Making Sense of John Mayberry Jr.’s Blistering Spring
By Pete Dymeck
Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
There isn’t any player working harder than John Mayberry Jr. in Spring Training. The 30-year-old outfielder is doing everything in his power to remain a fixture on the Philadelphia Phillies roster. He is doing so much, in fact, that it’s kind of scary.
While the sample size is minute, Mayberry Jr. is raking to the tune of two home run’s and five runs batted in in just 17 at-bat’s. He’s also sporting a hefty .353 average. Many are wondering if the big stick Mayberry’s swinging is a sign of things to come or is this just another Craig Monroe-like spring performance?
If anything, I’d suggest the latter.
Many of you may not remember Monroe. He broke out in the spring of 2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He landed with the organization via a minor league contract that winter. During Spring Training, Monroe tallied 71 AB where he finished with 8 HR, 16 RBI and a .296 AVG. His performance that spring was enough to earn him a roster spot with the big league club.
Proving his spring was indeed a fluke, Monroe would hit just .215 with three HR. He would be designated for assignment on July 1. Monroe would never step foot on a major league diamond again.
Many have come before Monroe and many have followed. More recently, Sean Rodriguez, Mitch Maier and Jake Fox come to mind. Will Mayberry do the same, that is, rock out in spring ball only to suffocate during the regular season?
Fans in Philadelphia know Mayberry well. They know his defense lacks luster. They also realize he is a liability at the plate. Since becoming an accessory off the bench in 2011, Mayberry’s production has decreased every single season. He was a below replacement level player in 2013, measuring a -0.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to Fangraphs.
The Phillies would have been better off giving Darin Ruf Mayberry’s plate appearances, but that’s too much to ask of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. now isn’t it? I’ll save that discussion for another day.
As for the excited fans, maybe they are elated with Mayberry because of his porous track record in the Grapefruit League. From 2009-2013, the right-handed hitter maintained a lowly .245 AVG. Therefore, one could assume that fans are simply not used to this kind of production out of Mayberry.
Mayberry came into spring with no expectations. The plate prowess he has exhbitied, albeit in limited AB, is enough to give any casual fan jitters. Coupled with the poor performance of Bobby Abreu thus far, as well as the overall dismal offensive output the Phillies have shown, Mayberry’s earning street cred at a rate only Craig Monroe could appreciate.
It will all fall down though.
Here is a brief look at what Mayberry has done since 2011.
As you can see, his production is diminishing at a rate that should leave him off the Phillies roster in 2014, regardless of how well he produces in spring ball. It’s not like the Phillies are going to catch lightning in the bottle with Mayberry. He has already proven otherwise.
In each successive year, Mayberry has walked less and struck out more. As you can see with his WAR, he is more calamitous than assisting. Add in his age and the $1.59 million Mayberry will earn in 2014, and the Phillies will likely whiff again if or when they decide to keep Mayberry’s bat on the roster. While Mayberry’s contract is peanuts compared to the majority of the roster, it is still destructive to the Phillies in that he is a below replacement level player. Basically, Amaro Jr. would get more output via a less expensive player. As Jay-Z infamously put it: “Men lie, women lie. Numbers don’t.”
At the end of the day, don’t look too much into Mayberry’s numbers this spring. His cumulative data since 2011 suggests he will continue to decline and be more of a hindrance to the Phillies than beneficial. As positive as his Spring Training performance has been for the club, the beacon of hope will not trot into Opening Day on March 31 and lift the Phillies out of the muck they are situated in.
Watch and celebrate, but do so cautiously. Mayberry’s spring won’t mean anything when Opening Day rolls around.