Before the season began, a movement was underway. OK, I won’t go that far, however, I did have my hand in starting #FREEMAYBERRY via Twitter and Facebook. It was my way of saying we needed to see more of John Mayberry Jr.
While in Clearwater, I got the chance to talk with Mayberry, who told me he would be disappointed if he wasn’t on the opening day roster. Wowing the coaches with his power in Spring Training turned out to be enough to make the squad going into the 2011 season. He made his presence felt in game one of the season, finishing off the Phillies comeback over the Astros with a pinch-hit, game-winning RBI single. That was the start of a fantastic season for Mayberry.
Although he was never able to become the full-time starter in left field, Mayberry became part of a platoon with Raul Ibanez by midseason. He also played some first base with Ryan Howard out and some center field when Shane Victorino was on the disabled list.
Defensively, it was truly a joy to watch the 6-foot-6 Mayberry run like a gazelle in the outfield. He committed only two errors in the outfield and used his speed an size to track down many balls that Ibanez was unable to get to.
Finally, Mayberry is starting to figure it out with the bat. He accrued only 296 plate appearances, but made the most of those opportunities by hitting 15 home runs and accumulating 33 extra-base hits. In essence, Mayberry was freed from his breaking ball demons. The knock on JMJ was that he could not lay off the soft stuff, which is why he had trouble breaking through to the majors on a full-time basis.
Let’s go back to August 1 in Colorado. With the Phillies down 3-1, in the ninth, Mayberry stepped to the plate with one on and two outs against Rockies closer Huston Street. Mayberry saw eight straight sliders from Street, connecting on the final pitch and blasting it 406 feet into the left field seats to tie the game at 3-3. Eight sliders. In previous seasons in the minor leagues, Mayberry would be back in the dugout before he could see a handful of off-speed pitches. But against Street, Mayberry locked in on the breaking stuff and helped the Phillies come back to win 4-3 in extra innings.
That at-bat stands out in my memory from what was a very positive season for Mayberry. He still has some holes in his swing, and some say he’s best suited in a platoon role. However, you can’t argue the results of 2011. He certainly gives the Phillies a cheap left fielder in 2012 should they decide to go that route.
Grade: 8.1/10 - Mayberry finally figured it out. In a limited number of opportunities, JMJ made his presence felt.