I attended the Saturday match-up between the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and the Louisville Bats to see Brian Gordon pitch, who I had previously written about here. Gordon is a 32-year old pitcher, a converted outfielder at age 28, who achieved his dream of making the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Texas Rangers. Gordon was putting up eye-popping, video game like stats, including a sub-1.00 ERA going into Saturday, and who currently has thrown 56 strikeouts against only seven walks.
Saturday’s game was one of the roughest of the year for Gordon.Gordon struck out nine over 6 2/3 without walking anyone but gave up 2 home runs good for 5 runs, only 3 earned. The highlight of the game was Gordon’s 4th inning, 2-run center field shot.
The 27 year-old Mayberry is a former first-round pick out of Stanford by the Texas Rangers. Drafted in 2005, Mayberry showed promising power in the minor leagues in four seasons with the Rangers, while displaying poor plate discipline and propensity to wiff.
With a triple slash line of .258/.330/.458 in the minors entering his age 25 season, Mayberry, at 6’5 and 220 lbs., was a decent power threat and had a 80.95% success rate on the base paths. Entering the 2009 season, the Texas Rangers fielded an outfield of David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Andruw Jones. While being a 25 year old in Triple A doesn’t mean your ancient, your chances become increasingly difficult to reach the Major Leagues if you haven’t gotten there yet. Unfortunately, baseball is a game of labels. And with 331 games played in Triple A through the 2008 season, Texas thought it had the book written on Mayberry.
Ruben Amaro Jr., another Stanford graduate, took over as Phillies’ General Manager following Pat Gillick’s retirement in November 2008. While some may think taking over a championship ball club is easy, Amaro faced a number of challenges in his first off-season as GM. His first decision would be whether or not to re-sign Pat Burrell, who the Phillies had drafted first overall in 1998 and had been a Phillie since 2000. Burrell was the Grand Marshall of the 2008 World Series parade and amongst the primary right-handed power threats for the Phillies for nine seasons. Amaro also had to decide whether or not to offer arbitration to players like Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett, key reserves on the 2008 squad. And most glaringly, Amaro had to find ways to plug holes on the Phillies’ bench and upper minor league systems that were patrolled with names like T.J. Bohn, Mike Cervanek, and Brad Harman; with a bullpen that relied at times on Les Walrond, RJ Swindle, and 39 year old Rudy Seanez. One of Ruben’s first moves went under the radar: Amaro traded once promising speedster Greg Golson for Mayberry.
The trade at the time did not get tremendous amount of press other than the obligatory line in the transaction column on November 20, 2008. Phuture Phillies blog, which continues to this day to be the top site for news, analysis and daily box scores of all Phillies’ prospects, was just about the only link I could find that has reflected on the, at the time, seemingly inconsequential trade. Responses to the trade at the time ranged from upset Phillies fans who saw Golson as the future in the outfield, after all, Golson’s slash line was .263/.309/.398, averaging over 31 steals a season with a 79.01% success rate on the base paths in 5 minor league seasons with power that increased each year, to promise that Mayberry would provide right-handed power off of the bench and the capability to spell Howard at first base. Other responses inspired indifference.
In their analysis of the deal, Phuture Phillies declared the trade a win for Amaroand praised his “outside the box” thinking in a rare prospect for prospect move. They cited Golson’s ceiling as a hitter and his even higher propensity to strikeout as glaring weaknesses in Golson’s game. They projected Golson as a 4th or 5th outfielder, one whose value became his abilities on defense and the basepaths. Meanwhile, Phuture Phils’ cited Mayberry’s improving walk rate, plus power, and his ability to hit left-handed pitching as preferable moving forward for the team.
It is now 2011. Mayberry saw limited action in 2009 and 2010 with the Phillies. With the departure of Werth and injury to Dom Brown, Mayberry cracked the big club out of the gate on opening day. He had a walk off-single and has hit .255/.359/.418 with 2 home runs and 4 steals in 31 games across all three outfield positions and first base.
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that Amaro said it’s not a matter of if but when Brown is called up to the Phillies as he rehabs. Hidden in the piece was a line from Charlie Manuel regarding John Mayberry: “He’s shown me enough he gets to play tonight.”
Will Mayberry remain hot, or at least consistent, enough to continue to patrol the outfield for the Phils? His main competition at this time, Ibanez and Francisco, have .225/.281/.338 and .218/.327/.346 triple-slashes respectively against Mayberry’s .255/.359/.418 in similar sample sizes. At the very least, Mayberry looks like a bigger threat to lefties than Francisco and provides a better arm and greater defensive range than Ibanez. Even with Brown’s call-up looming, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlie kept Mayberry in the line-up due to his versatility, plus power, and smarts on the base paths. And even if Mayberry should remain a role player, it is clear that Amaro got the better end of his first trade as a Major League GM.
Golson through this date has not seen action in the Major Leagues in 2011 and is now with Yankees’ Triple A affiliate Scranton-Wilkes-Barre via an even less talked about trade that sent Yankee farm-hand Mitch Hilligoss to Texas. In 30 Major League plate appearances, including 6 with the Phillies in 2008, Golson has a triple-slash line of .200/.200/.267 going 1 for 3 on the base paths, with only 2 extra base hits and 2 RBIs. Golson’s stats since the trade in Triple A are as follows:
Mayberry has Golson beat in the triple slash and BB:K ratio, even when adjusting for his time outside of the hitter friendly PCL and appears to be a better player at this point in their respective careers. Golson remains two years younger, but at this point, Amaro’s shot in the dark at acquiring Mayberry looks like it may be a slam-dunk.
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