The Philadelphia Phillies have struggled this spring. The biggest concern coming into 2014 is the same one that hindered the team the past few seasons—its offense.
Philadelphia is currently hitting .212 through its first 15 games of the spring, which is the worst in MLB.
But for every negative quality a team has, there is always a silver lining.
John Mayberry Jr. ascended through the Texas Rangers' minor league system, becoming a legitimate prospect after being drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft. He had it all—the body frame, the power and the ability to play each outfield position.
Mayberry was acquired by the Phillies during the 2008-09 offseason in exchange for speedy outfielder and failed prospect Greg Golson. Mayberry began that season in Triple-A and was later called up during interleague play as an extra bat.
Mayberry's first MLB hit, a three-run home run off Andy Pettitte to left field in Yankee Stadium in May of 2009, encompassed everything the team was hoping for in its young outfielder. Since that game, Mayberry has split time between the outfield, first base and pinch hitting.
2011 was his best major league season. Mayberry hit .273 and smacked 15 home runs while posting an .854 OPS in 104 games. The outlook for the maturing Mayberry was bright, which is why he remained with the Phillies in 2012.
Mayberry was given more at-bats (441), but his production didn't stay the same. His power numbers declined (14 HRs, 46 RBI), his average dropped (.245) and he struggled to get on base (.301 OBP). As a result, Mayberry was forced into a platoon role for the last few seasons.
Mayberry was tendered by the Phillies in December. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly in an interview that same month he finds value in the outfielder as a role player:
He’s a lot more valuable than I guess people think, ... Part of the equation is whether he’s viewed as an everyday player or not. Well, I don’t believe he’s an everyday player. I see him as fill-in-in-a-pinch guy. He’s got versatility. He can play first base and all three outfield positions. That versatility and the fact that he’s got some power are all things in our estimation that are pluses. He can be a role player on a team that can win.
Last season Mayberry showed flashes of how productive he could be off the bench. Four of his 11 home runs came in the seventh inning or later.
Mayberry is having a productive spring that will hopefully continue into the regular season. Having Mayberry on the bench could prove to be important late in games, especially if he has figured out the solution to the problems with his swing.
So far this spring, Mayberry is hitting .333 with eight hits in 24 at-bats during his 12 games of play. He has also smacked two home runs and posted a 1.027 OPS in those contests.
Opposite-field power, extra-base hits, and the ability to come off the bench and produce are the keys for the Phillies outfielder. A hot start to the spring could carry over to April.
If Mayberry can continue his production, the Phillies may have found their silver lining in a worrisome spring. Look for Mayberry to be an effective player, even in a limited role this season.