As we continue to wade our way through the position from 2015, we come to one of the bigger surprises of the year. The surprise isn't necessarily from a results perspective (we will get to that in a second), but instead in terms of what fans expected both coming in to the season as well as in the immediate aftermath of the Craig Kimbrel trade. Many of us assumed that the Braves were going to trot Melvin Upton out there until someone bit the bullet and finally benched him and his horrendous contract. However, the Braves found an opportunity in San Diego where they would take Upton and his money along with beloved closer Craig Kimbrel while also sending back top prospect Matt Wisler and Jordan Paroubeck, the 41st pick in the 2015 draft, and some dead money of their own in Carlos Quentin and....wait for it....Cameron Maybin. Quentin immediately retired, the Braves drafted Austin Riley with the 41st pick, and Cameron Maybin won a battle for the starting centerfield spot that no one seemed to want to win. For an extended stretch though....Maybin was actually quite good.
Through the first half, Cameron Maybin held down centerfield quite well. He had a very respectable line of .289/.356/.418 with 8 homers and 44 RBIs. While the defensive metrics didn't always like him, he only made 3 errors out there and did make some plays that makes one think he could play the position reasonably well. However, not unlike the team as a whole, the second half was not as kind where he battled some eye issues and also posted a much less impressive .240/.289/.311 stat line. Which brings us to the rankings....where did the Braves rank league wide at the center field.
2015 Braves Center Field Stats and Ranks
Not pretty...although at least part of the problem was due to the fact that during the 36 games that Maybin didn't start in center field his contemporaries were absymal. Maybin was good for a 1.0 WAR in 2015, which isn't great but certainly better than the internal alternatives that were available. If not for a pretty severe second half swoon, the position would have faired better against the rest of the league.
In all likelihood, the Braves will start with Cameron Maybin in center field in 2016. There is a real chance that Maybin is traded in the offseason, but only if the Braves can both get real back for him AND if they think that prospect Mallex Smith is ready to take over. Mallex is a plus speed, top of the order hitter but only played half the season at AAA so will probably at least start the year at AAA. What remains unclear is which Maybin will show up for the Braves next season...the one who helped the Braves to a surprising first half performance or the one that slumped as the teeam performance turned in to a dumpster fire in the second half. Expect to see Maybin get the bulk of the playing time in the first half in center and then the Braves will certainly explore trade deadline deals involving Maybin depending on his market value at the time and how Mallex's development in AAA is going.