With an already depleted outfield, Clint Frazier’s injury on April 25 forced Brian Cashman to run his Statue of Liberty play. According to John Harper, Cashman reached out to the other general managers and said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.” He negotiated for hours before walking away with Cameron Maybin, whom he acquired from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations.
Maybin, 32, spent spring training with the San Francisco Giants before latching on to Triple-A Columbus. A career 92 wRC+ hitter, few expected him to do anything else besides serve as a warm body in the outfield. “Can he be worse than Shane Robinson?” we asked as the news broke.
Like many others on the 2019 Yankees, he dramatically outproduced expectations and apparently revitalized his career in the process.
2019 Statistics: 82 games, 269 plate appearances, .285/.364/.494, 11 home runs, 32 RBI, 127 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR
Maybin’s story begins and ends with the career year he produced at the plate. The once light-hitting speedster tapped into his latent power potential with the Yankees. He set career highs in home runs and wRC+, attributing that success to recommendations he took from hitting coach Marcus Thames.
“You always try to improve,” Maybin explained to Lindsey Adler of The Athletic (subscription required). “A lot of it was just keeping up with the times, and the times now are OPS and exit velocity and launch angle. So for me, it’s like your iPhone. You gotta get that update.”
In this quest for improvement, Maybin completely overhauled his swing. He adopted an upward tilt to it, increasing his launch angle to 11 degrees. Prior to 2019, his launch angle maxed out at seven degrees.
Good things happened as he lifted the ball in the air. His average exit velocity also reached a career high, peaking at 88.8 mph. Maybin embraced the fly-ball revolution with the Yankees, and he was rewarded with his best year in the batter’s box to date.
One of the most memorable aspects of Maybin’s season came as the regular outfielders started to return from injury, namely Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Many speculated that Maybin would lose his roster spot to make room for one of the sluggers, but he had other ideas. From June 15-18, he homered in four consecutive games. A trip to the injured list cut that run short, but he returned in about a month and played well down the stretch.
When it came to defense, Maybin graded out as slightly below average according to the advanced stats. Across 326.1 innings in left field, he posted a -6.3 UZR/150, -1.9 UZR, and -5 DRS. He did a little better in center field, but only played 20 innings there. This jives with the eye test, where Maybin certainly made some interesting decisions in the outfield.
Y’all see the trailer for the new Spider-Man movie? ♂️ pic.twitter.com/weDY0DfOoj— Cameron Maybin (@CameronMaybin) June 21, 2019
Made this catch and knew y’all would STILL be clowning me... I MADE THE CATCH DIDN’T I? https://t.co/NyG2vK0q8t— Cameron Maybin (@CameronMaybin) August 28, 2019
I specifically linked to both of those Maybin tweets, because I wanted to close out this report card by talking about the great fun he brought to the clubhouse. Maybin played only 82 games for the Yankees, but he became a fan favorite nearly overnight. He introduced #HugSZN to the Bombers, celebrating every home run with a big hug in the dugout; he frequently appeared on the R2C2 podcast, even co-hosting one episode; and he had the all-time coolest Players’ Weekend cleats. It was an absolute joy watching him in pinstripes.
Who knows what next year will bring for Maybin. Maybe he rejoins the Yankees, but he very well could have played his way into a starting role somewhere else. Regardless of what happens in 2020, it’s hard to think about his time in pinstripes and not smile.