Waiting for John Mayberry Jr.
We all remember John Mayberry Jr’s first Major League home run like it was yesterday. It was May 23, 2009 in New York against the Yankees, Mayberry’s Major League debut. Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz had reached base on a single and a walk, and Andy Pettitte was laboring. On a 1-1 count, Mayberry pulled Pettitte’s offering into the right field seats. FOX, broadcasting the game nationally, thought they had locked the camera on his father, after all, he was black, wearing Panama paraphernalia, and was on the phone immediately after Mayberry’s homer — you know, dad stuff. We later found out that FOX had no idea what John Mayberry Sr. looked like.
That is really the extent of what we really remember about Junior. He has had 73 Major League plate appearances, showing decent power potential, but still the same flaws that persisted during regular playing time in the Minors: a lack of plate discipline, a lack of contact, an inability to hit breaking pitches, and problems with right-handed pitchers.
Plate discipline: Over his six-year Minor League career, Mayberry struck out 625 times in 2853 plate appearances, a 22 percent rate. While that rate wouldn’t place him among the Major League leaders, that rate only figures to increase with more big league exposure. In a very limited sample size, Mayberry struck out in 37 percent of his 73 big league plate appearances.
Contact: Mayberry’s peak batting average in the Minors came in 2006 with Single-A Clinton with the Texas Rangers organization. He hit .268. Mayberry would need to go on a BABIP rampage to come anywhere close to .300.
Breaking pitches: Here’s what Matt Gelb wrote about Mayberry nearly a month ago:
The Phillies wanted John Mayberry Jr. to work on his most glaring weakness this off-season: hitting a breaking ball. So they sent him to the Mexican Pacific League.
Gelb notes that Mayberry had decent results in 144 at-bats, but the sample size is small — particularly when you eliminate fastballs — and he wasn’t exactly facing premier pitching talent. In the other small sample we have — his Major League at-bats — he posted a .357 OPS against “soft” stuff from right-handers, per data from Baseball Analytics.
Right-handers: At the Major League level, Mayberry crushed lefties to a .923 OPS in 44 PA, but managed only a .626 OPS against right-handers in 29 PA. With Minor League Splits gone by the wayside, there are no reliable sources for left-right splits below the Majors, unfortunately, but Mayberry does not hit right-handers well.
These are four issues that don’t go away magically over the course of one off-season. And yes, we are dealing with small sample sizes and data quality issues for sure. However, that little evidence leads us to conclude that Mayberry isn’t much of a Major Leaguer right now. PECOTA projects a .238/.294/.403 line for Mayberry this year — certainly not impressive numbers at all. That scant evidence is much greater than anything presented in favor of Mayberry being a productive contributor to the Phillies.
There are plenty of ways to go about addressing the Phillies’ outfield situation. Waiting for Mayberry isn’t one of them.