(Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
2009 was just an introduction. 2010 was a step back.
But for John Mayberry Jr, 2011 was the year the 28-year old let the Phillies know that he is here to stay. Now all he has left to prove to the Phillies that he shouldn’t just be splitting time with newly signed Laynce Nix, and instead be the every day starter in left field.
Mayberry first put his foot in the door in 2009 when he debuted against the Yankees in New York. He doubled and homered in that game, showing off to the Phillies the raw power he has at the plate.
But Mayberry also showed the Phillies in his ensuing games that he lacked a lot of discipline at the plate and it continued into 2010. 2011 was a different story for Mayberry and it is the reason he will share a lot of time on the field with Nix.
Mayberry is tired of sharing though and the 2012 season will be Mayberry’s chance to show the Phillies that he deserves the lion’s share of playing time.
See, Mayberry already has a distinct advantage over Nix. Mayberry is a completely versatile player; bringing speed, a solid glove, a powerful bat and the ability to play both first base and all three outfield positions.
Mayberry also hits for power from the right side of the plate, a something the Phillies don’t have much of in their lefty-heavy line up.
But enough about what Mayberry has compared to Nix. It’s what Mayberry has finally done last year that has allowed him to go from the 25th man on the roster to being considered to crack the Opening Day starting line up.
Mayberry’s first hit of last season came in walk-off fashion on Opening Day against the Astros. It was a good start as a pinch-hitter but his numbers showed he isn’t the hottest hitter when coming off the bench (.226/.314/.323).
In 60 starts last season, Mayberry hit .272 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs, attractive numbers for a hitter in the six or seven spot. With him looking to get around 80-100 starts, those numbers will surely increase with his average reaching closer to .290.
Sure, this is all speculation. It could also be an over-rated and hopeful guess at the production that Mayberry could give the Phillies.
Mayberry has shown throughout last season he deserved to be an every day starter as well as being susceptible to cold spells.
Let’s use last season as an example. April aside (a putrid .192 in 72 at-bats), Mayberry produced well from July until September, three of the four months he saw at least 50 at-bats. In those final three months, he hit .300 (49-for-163) with 12 of his 15 homers and 27 of his 49 RBIs on the season.
In those three months, Mayberry started 37 of the 59 games he played in. Also in those 59 games, Mayberry shared time in all three outfield positions as well as at first base.
And it’s going to be first base where Mayberry may have really grabbed Charlie Manuel’s attention.
Ryan Howard is still a huge question mark for the Opening Day line up. And despite the additions of Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton, Mayberry could see time at first until Howard is back to 100% all the way through the season to keep the Phillies most valuable slugger healthy and fresh.
In fact, in 16 games last season and 45 plate appearances, Mayberry went 18-for-44 (.409) with three home runs and nine RBIs when he was playing first base. Playing a position where Mayberry is constantly moving through out the entire game kept him loose for nine innings, which may not be much but it’s certainly something to think about.
Regardless the position Mayberry fields during the regular season, he will have his work cut out for him if he wants to crack the every day line up on one of the premier teams in Major League Baseball.
But it isn’t like he hasn’t been proving that already.
On a side note, I used Baseball Reference for all of the numbers on this piece, and 90% of the time on this site. If SOPA/PIPA ever gets passed, I would never be able to use this wonderful site again. Think about that.