It's easy to see a player have some level of success and instantly figure he can play on an everyday basis. Many players who have been given the chance to play everyday after showing success as a utility player have fallen flat on their collective faces. One instance was Ben Francisco in 2011.
The Phillies were impressed with what Francisco did in 2010 and thought he would be a potential everyday outfielder, or at least the right-handed hitting part of a platoon, in 2011. When the season opened and Domonic Brown was on the DL, Francisco had his chance and it didn't go very well, to say the least. Things were good for the first month or so and Francisco was hitting .266 at the end of April, but that's where it all ended. One month later, Francisco's average dipped to .227 and it was destined to fall further. As it turns out, Francisco simply wasn't going to get the job done in right field, which is not to say that he's a bad player. Francisco has carved out a decent career as a utility guy and is a career .260 hitter in the majors, but he doesn't figure to be an everyday player. He's best suited to coming off the bench, maybe playing for a few days in a row if you have an injury to get past, but to put him in the lineup everyday, it just doesn't appear that he's going to produce.
In 2012, the Phillies may need to find out the same thing about John Mayberry Jr., who put up some nice numbers for the Phillies in their franchise-record 102 win season. With Raul Ibanez all but gone from Philadelphia as a free agent, Mayberry is on the short list to take over in left field. Also on that list would be Domonic Brown, who struggled badly in 2011 and has raised questions about his ability to play as an everyday player in the majors.
With that list of potential replacements - if you can call two players a list - left field is wide open for the Phillies in 2012.
You have to admit that Mayberry's numbers look pretty nice and there is reason to believe that he might be able to produce on an everyday basis. For part of the season, Mayberry was in something very close to a platoon in left field and did very well in that role, hitting .306 against left-handed pitching. Against right-handers, his average sank to .250 on the season. Mayberry also played in center, right and at first base, which is where they may need him to start next season if Ryan Howard isn't recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon by the start of the season. Right now, it appears that Howard won't be ready to go, so Mayberry could be playing everyday at first, perhaps giving Domonic Brown another audition in left field to prove that he's ready to at least platoon. When Mayberry was in the starting lineup for three or more days at a time, he hit .294 (38-for-129), higher than his overall season average of .273 with the Phillies.
Considering that Brown is a left-handed hitter and Mayberry right-handed, all the makings are there for a platoon situation in 2012. Mayberry's success against left-handers has been shown and letting Brown play generally only against right-handed pitching might be a way to ease him into a full-time major league role somewhere down the road.
Whenever you have a player that is looking to take on a heftier role than he has in the past, it's best to at least have a very qualified back-up to take over if things get too rough and the team needs to make a change. Whether the left field job would go to Mayberry, Brown or a combination of the two, there are no guarantees that things would go smoothly, which may necessitate the need for a veteran outfielder to help get over the rough spots, if necessary.
It would be interesting to know how incumbent left fielder Raul Ibanez would feel about signing a smaller deal with the Phillies, knowing that his playing time - and the size of his contract - would be drastically reduced. If any combination of Mayberry and Brown were to fail, Ibanez could at least give an adequate player to take over in left field. There are two main problems with that scenario though; first, does Ibanez still consider himself an everyday player or at least a guy who could be a full-time DH for an American League club. And second, in his career, Ibanez is just a .157 hitter coming off the bench.
When you pour through Mayberry's stats, there is no reason to believe that he couldn't become an everyday player. He took a big step toward proving that this past season and was actually a very important part of the Phillies roster for good chunks of the season. His timing couldn't have been better, because with Ibanez' contract expiring, the Phillies can at least feel somewhat comfortable with Mayberry getting even more playing time than he did in 2011. The only way Ibanez would be back is if he would accept a greatly reduced role and much smaller contract. Otherwise, he's a goner as the Phillies look to infuse some new blood into their lineup. That means that somebody has an opportunity and with the financial constraints that the Phillies figure to have considering their refusal to not go over the luxury tax, cheaper players at a couple of positions may be necessary. Mayberry would be a fit for the 2012 Phillies in many ways and while adding some outfield insurance might be a smart move, the need to find an everyday left fielder isn't. The Phillies already have that in Mayberry, who deserves at least a shot to get more playing time and call a spot in the lineup his own.
John Mayberry Jr's career stats