Closing Time: Cameron Maybin makes his move

It hasn’t always amounted to much on the fantasy baseball page, but Cameron Maybin has been an interesting player for the past decade.

He was a first-round pick in his draft class. He wasn’t just a touted prospect, he was judged as a can’t-miss prospect. On two separate occasions, he was a significant piece in a major trade (the Miguel Cabrera package; the first Craig Kimbrel haul).

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The growth we expected never seemed to fully arrive. Maybin’s raw tools would flash now and then, but rarely enough to move the fantasy needle. We thought he had a power profile, and that’s out the window — just a .371 slugging percentage over his career. He’s never hit more than 10 homers in a season. His career average is a modest .258.

Now that we’ve talked the stock down, let’s be fair and discuss what Maybin can do for our fantasy teams. He’s getting playing time — and leadoff spot run — for the Angels these days, and some fun stuff is coming from it.

A .244 average doesn’t help us, but Maybin also has a .370 on-base percentage. His walk-to-strikeout rate is almost an even 1:1, a sign of someone controlling their at-bats. Maybin has 10 steals for the year, which puts him eighth in all of the majors. He’s on pace to score 86 runs.

Maybe something’s clicked for Maybin in that leadoff slot. He’s on a 13-for-24 binge there, with seven walks against just two strikeouts. That’s a handy .542/.645/.833 slash. He’s scored nine runs. Being just ahead of Mike Trout, that’s good work if you can get it. Maybin had a homer and a steal in Monday’s win over Tampa Bay.

If you’ve been burned — or underwhelmed — by Maybin in the past, I get it. But steals aren’t that easy to find in today’s game, and maybe the proximity to Trout is driving part of this story. Maybin is owned in just 11 percent of Yahoo leagues. On a few of my teams, I decided he was worth more than the final guy on the bench. And heck, Maybin’s 94 games in Detroit last year were quietly useful (.315 average, .383 OPB, 65 runs, 15 steals).

You know the rules. Is plausible upside here? Yes. We can extend a short leash. Sometimes you hit on this type of player (think Kevin Pillar) and sometimes they’re quickly jettisoned. Try to be open minded, see the positive case.

• It would be nice if Scott Schebler pushed past the 50-percent ownership tag, earned his graduation papers. Maybe you guys don’t want to get him a grad present. This could be this year’s Adam Duvall.

Schebler has home runs in three straight games, pushing him up to 13 on the year. If you’re a split player, note the best part of his game has shown against left-handed pitching (129 OPS+, where 100 is average, and four homers in 39 at-bats). Fortunately for Schebler, the Reds have faced a few more lefties to this point than you’d expect. But that’s about to some to a crashing halt, as Cincinnati doesn’t see a southpaw for the next two weeks.

Even if you paint Schebler as a full-time player with some leaks, he’s still a reasonable own. He’s at .255/.324/.556 for the year, with three steals. The pop is welcome, the steals a nifty tack-on, the slugging percentage a validation of power.

• I don’t blame you if you couldn’t take Didi Gregorius’ breakout year at face value. Heck, who didn’t hit 20 home runs last year? And Gregorius reached new career highs for average and slugging percentage, after showing almost no offensive profile for three years. Gregorius also started this year on the DL, so he wasn’t on many radars.

Gregorius came back about a month ago, and so far, so good over 22 games: .333/.365/.444, a couple of homers. His BB/K ratio is notably improved. He collected four hits in Sunday’s win, then homered in Monday’s victory over Kansas City.

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of the New York offense, where so many different batters are currently hitting the high end of their ranges. Nonetheless, I’m inclined to think Didi’s 2016 breakthrough might have been a real thing. If nothing else, he’s playing in a deep lineup and enjoying the fruits of a homer-friendly home park. You can grab Gregorius for nothing — well, the cost of a waiver pick — in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.

• The Bud Norris closing experiment is about a month old, and business is good. Norris has nine saves over that time, and a reasonable pitching line (15 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 6 BB, 21 K). The strikeout rate jumps out, the walk rate reasonable. A favorable .250 BABIP has helped the cause.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t a favorite of ours; we can’t say with certainty that Norris will keep the ninth inning when Cam Bedrosian, or others, come back. Bedrosian had his own breakout case working before his groin injury. And Scioscia being Scioscia, perhaps Huston Street will percolate at some point in the summer.

Nonetheless, possession of the closing baton is the most important part of save handicapping, so long as the pitcher has been reasonably reliable in that big chair. Norris passes the eye test and the stat test to this point. Even with a mercurial manager, I see this story extending to the hot-weather months.

• If you’re looking for a buy-low candidate, throw Matt Carpenter’s name into the ring. That .235 average doesn’t look real to me, especially tied to a .247 BABIP. We’ve learned over the years not to take a hit rate at face value, but Carpenter always has favorable hard-hit and line-drive metrics, this year no exception.

My buddy Scott Jenstad recently offered me a deal that had him acquiring Carpenter, and although the full package was reasonable, I respectfully rejected the deal. We’re both of the mind that Carpenter’s average can be a lot better than this.

In the meantime, Carpenter is on pace for 87 runs, 36 homers and 107 RBIs, handy consolation prizes even if the batting average doesn’t come up. And he’s a positional-godsend in Yahoo leagues, qualifying at first, second and third base.