Career Crossroads: Nick Markakis

June 01, 2012 | Joe Giglio

Nick Markakis’ broken hamate bone required surgery on Friday that will keep the right fielder out for 2-4 weeks. It’s the latest set back for a Baltimore team that has suffered through a litany of injuries through the first third of the season.

While it could have been worse — Buck Showalter acknowledged that the diagnosis and procedure was a best case scenario for the club — it’s time to wonder what kind of player Markakis truly is when healthy. His first career trip to the disabled list doesn’t make him injury prone, but his absence allows us to examine a career at a crossroads.

Simply put, Nick Markakis was one of the best players in baseball in 2008. The 24-year-old outfielder posted a .306/.406/.491 line, was one of the top defensive players in the sport, and nearly drew as many walks as strikeouts for a Patience Formula rating of -2.0. According to Fangraphs’ WAR, Markakis was worth 6.3 wins above a replacement player. That mark was good enough for 12th among non-pitchers, tied with Alex Rodriguez. He was the fourth most valuable outfielder in the sport.

Four years later, Markakis hasn’t come close to matching the production of ’08. Sure, he’s been durable until now, missing only four combined games from ’09-’11. Yes, he won a Gold Glove last season, but some of that felt like a career achievement award. While the talent around him has been deficient until these last two months, it wasn’t like he had tremendous lineup protection in his best season.

Despite the six-year, $66.1 million contract, unwavering fan support, and durability, Markakis has performed worse and worse since his breakout third season in the big leagues. While most hitters improve dramatically over the course of their prime, Markakis hasn’t.

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