Prospect Smackdown: Cameron Maybin vs. Jay Bruce
Background and Intangibles
Maybin: Maybin was the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft, picked out of high school in Asheville, North Carolina by the Tigers. Many teams rated him as a Top Five talent, but concerns about his bonus demands knocked him back to 10th. The Tigers signed him for $2.65 million. Well-known as an amateur, Maybin has seen nothing but success as a pro. Although he was busted for underage alcohol possession last summer, but his work ethic and overall makeup are rated very highly by the Tigers.
Bruce: Bruce was drafted in the first round in 2005, 12th overall, out of high school in Beaumont, Texas. Like Maybin, he was well-known and well-regarded as an amateur, and rated one of the best young hitters available in the '05 draft class. Signed for $1.8 million, he also rates very highly in the work ethic and intangible departments.
Advantage: Maybin was a bit more highly-regarded as an amateur, but not enough to make a real difference. I don't think the booze possession thing is something to worry about, not unless it recurs. This looks even to me.
Physicality, Health, and Tools
Maybin: Maybin is 6-4, 205 pounds, a righty hitter and thrower, born April 4, 1987. All of his tools are rated above average or better: power, speed, arm strength, overall athleticism; he has everything you want. Maybin has more speed than Bruce, and while his power potential is likely as great, it is not as well developed at this point. He'll likely maintain his speed longer. Nagging hamstring and finger injuries have bothered him at times, but it hasn't been anything major or worrying in the long run.
Bruce: Bruce is 6-2, 205 pounds, a lefty hitter and thrower, born April 3, 1987. All of his tools are rated above average or better: power, speed, range, arm strength, overall athleticism, he has everything you want in an outfielder. He has less pure speed than Maybin, but a touch more power. A sore quad muscle cost him playing time last year, but overall he's been quite healthy.
Advantage: Very very close, with Maybin probably having a slight edge in the long run. He'll keep his speed longer, and while he doesn't have as much current power, most scouts think he'll equal Bruce in that department with more experience. Both of them are Five Tool guys overall.
Performance and Polish
Maybin: Maybin hit .304/.387/.457 in the Midwest League, posting a +22 percent OPS and a +53 percent SEC. The only negative in his numbers is a high strikeout rate, 116 in 101 games, but the Tigers don't seem to think this is a long-term problem, and he did draw 50 walks in 385 at-bats. Some people have been concerned about Maybin's ground ball ratio, but I'm not convinced this will be a long-term problem. We'll see. Maybin was supposed to be somewhat raw coming into pro ball, but showed more polished than expected last year.
Bruce: Bruce hit .291/.355/.516 in the Midwest League, posting a +26 percent OPS and a +58 percent SEC. His strikeout rate was not as high as Maybin's, but he didn't walk as often. Overall his production was slightly better, in the same league and at the same age. He's considered a bit more polished than Maybin overall.
Advantage: Slight edge for Bruce here.
Maybin: Maybin projects as a potential Gold Glove outfielder with power and speed, perhaps similar to Jermaine Dye with more speed, or Torii Hunter with a higher batting average.
Bruce: Bruce projects as an All-Star outfielder with plus power, though not as much speed as Maybin, perhaps similar to Larry Walker or Jim Edmonds.
Advantage: Considering that they were born within 24 hours of each other, there's no age/projection edge here. It depends on what flavor of player you like, I suppose.
I'd rate them even in background/intangibles, Maybin a very slight edge in tools, Bruce a slight edge in current performance and polish, and even (if different) in projection.
Overall I rated Bruce a bit higher in the book (9th overall compared to 16th), but both got Grade A- ratings, and this smackdown shows just how close it really is.