Detroit – Asheville native Cameron Maybin is a starter in 2020, emerging as a motivational leader in his third stint with the Detroit Tigers.
The 2005 T.C. Roberson grad was drafted by Detroit, as tenth overall in that year. Fifteen years later in a bizarre COVID 19-affected year, Maybin is among pivotal veterans on a rebuilding Tiger squad as he plays in his 14th major league season.
Maybin, 33, is hailed as a positive influence on the Tigers’ many younger players for his work ethic and upbeat demeanor. He is often in the mix socially — photographed by Detroit media as he grins and jokes with stars (the main subject of those photos) or younger players. He has been a good samaritan helping the youth for years in Asheville, also in Detroit.
He is also a serious voice of reason and caution, as more and more MLB players are testing positive for Coronavirus. Maybin reportedly urged teammates in a recent team-wide social media message to abide by MLB sanitary rules more closely. Rules include spacing apart in the dugout and wearing masks there, no spitting, and promoting less-contact “elbow bumps” in place of congratulatory “high five” hand slaps.
Maybin notes he usually likes to hug teammates but instead flashes the two-finger peace sign to them.
In the preseason he told Detroit media he was careful to limit contact with others, and distance apart from them as he trained and practiced. He said he remains eager to play baseball, shunning any notion of opting out of the 60-game MLB mini-season.
He noted he kept his hitting stroke sharp in his batting cage at home in Asheville, while enjoying tutoring eldest son Trent, 12, in baseball. He also said he liked getting to be at home with family during the pandemic and then sharing the excitement of the young Tiger squad.
As he points out, younger players can play with more abandon making the Tigers a dangerous contender to make the expanded 16-team playoffs. Detroit had the worst record in MLB last year, but is above .500. The Tigers pace five teams in wild card berths thus far and are hitting much better. Detroit outscored Pittsburgh 17-13 Friday then 11-5 Saturday, with Maybin idled by injury.
Maybin returned to Detroit last off-season, as three second-tier free agents bolstered the lineup. Maybin is batting .278 in six games — all in late July. He had two hits in each of his last two contests, before exiting with an injury.
His .285 in 2019 exceeds all other Tiger starters’ averages last year — even Hall of Fame-bound Miguel Cabrera. That .285 is nearly 30 points above Maybin’s .256 career average. His best average by far was .315, in 94 games in 2016. That was his second one-year stint in Detroit. He is believed to be the first to ever play with the Tigers three separate times.
Maybin’s deal for 2020 is reportedly for $1.25 million – reaching up to $2.8 million if he reaches production incentives. He has played for eight clubs including the Braves in 2015, and the Marlins twice. He played on contenders three times, beyond limited action as a Tiger rookie in 2007. Last year, he was a reserve on the powerhouse Yankees. He slugged 11 home runs in playing half of the games, which is a pace for 22 homers in a full season.
In 2017, the Angels dealt Maybin to Houston which went on to win the World Series. Maybin told The Tribune soon after winning that title it felt both “exciting” and “humbling” to finally become a champion. He said “I’ve done my time,” after a decade in the big leagues without even reaching playoffs.
In contrast, Maybin is on a rebuilding team. That first happened when Detroit traded him in the 2007-08 off-season to the Marlins in the blockbuster Miguel Cabrera deal.
But the flip side to Maybin is starting much more often than in most seasons. That boosts earnings potential and trade value, should he again be dealt to a contender. He played at least 135 of 162 games merely three times in 13 prior seasons — in 2011 and ’12 with San Diego, then in ’15 in Atlanta.
Maybin’s best-known baseball skill is in stealing bases — 40 in ’11, and 23 or more three other times including 33 in 2017 when he was second-best in the American League. He adjusted his swing for more contact. As a result, his on-base percentage soared from .309 over his first seven seasons to .340 over the last five — peaking at .383 with Detroit in 2016 and .364 last season.
By now he is reportedly again swinging more for power. As a Roberson Ram, Maybin drove the ball deep and often over the fence with his quick wrist swing.
When healthy he is often starting for Detroit, in right field. Others playing there include Travis Demeritte and Victor Reyes. Maybin has often played center field. JaCoby Jones starts there. Maybin, Jones and Cabrera are the most jovial Tigers, helping keep the team relaxed under pressure.
Maybin has periodically had injuries. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder went on the ten-day injured list after straining his right quadriceps while beating out an infield hit.
On Saturday, Maybin was medically cleared to run sprints and otherwise train in the field, with hopes he will soon return to game action.