For the first half of 2012, things could not have been worse for San Diego Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin at the plate. At last year’s All-Star break ,Cameron was hitting a measly .212 and slugging only .309. He didn’t just look lost at the dish–he was. For Maybin, who signed a 5-year, $25 million dollar deal in the 2012 offseason with the Padres, his performance was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster.
Expectations have always been high for Maybin, even long before he was ever a Padre. Coming out of high school, Maybin was seen by many as one of the best outfield prospects to be available in years. The list of accolades and awards Maybin picked up along the way was very long. In 2004,
Maybin was named the Baseball America youth player of the year. Drafted tenth overall in the 2005 draft by the Detroit Tigers, he was later one of the main pieces traded to the Florida Marlins in trade in exchange for Miguel Cabrera.
Maybin, known to be as accountable a player as anyone in all of baseball, was not going to use a lingering sore wrist issue as an excuse either. He knew he needed to change something and fast. That was when he started watching himself swing in a mirror. He didn’t like what he saw. His high, prolonged leg-kick which he used to trigger his swing wasn’t helping him at all. It had become the biggest detriment to any success he would hope to have at the plate.
It was then that Maybin worked on changing his swing with Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier. It wouldn’t be easy by any means. It was a long, tireless effort from the 25-year-old.
After ditching the high leg-kick and modifying his leg movement to a more subtle toe-tap in July, Maybin hit .283 and slugged .402 in the second half of 2012. He even found that he could generate just as much power with a shorter stride, as evidenced by his 485-foot home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks. At the time, it was the longest home run for any player in the league last season.
This winter, Maybin sought advice from “Mr. Padre” himself, Tony Gwynn. So far this spring things have gone well for Maybin. He is batting .306, while slugging .487 with an OPS of .829. While he only has one home run, many in the Padres organization are finally starting to see the progress they thought they were going to see last year.
The Padres will be counting on Maybin to start the 2013 season the way he finished 2012. With his natural athletic talent and his ability to patrol Petco Park’s spacious center field, many feel Maybin is only beginning to scratch the surface on his immense potential. If so, the 5-year deal that Maybin signed in March of 2012 will turn out to be one of the best contracts the Padres ever signed.