I like Justin Maxwell a lot. That may be a surprise to some that read my blog, but I'm a big fan. He's very athletic and a good defensive outfielder. He hits plenty of homers but also steals some bases. So why have I traditionally been against giving Maxwell a consistent ML roster spot? He scares me.
How could such a nice young man scare me? Unrealistic expectations. Maxwell has never hit for a high average in the minors and strikes out a ton (we're talking 30% of the time). He has plenty of ML-ready tools, including power, speed, defense, and the ability to take a walk. But I can't see Maxwell hitting much more than .230 in the majors at this point in his development.
I do see a light at the end of the tunnel, though. In August, I noted that Maxwell and Mike Cameron's minor league numbers are eerily similar.
Maxwell: .257/.351/.442 Cameron: .258/.344/.424
Additionally, after the 1994 season, Cameron's career looked to have pretty much stalled out. He followed up an awful 1993 season in A-ball with a .248/.343/.391 triple slash playing for the Prince William Cannons in '94. Cameron improved a little bit in 1995 before breaking out with a 1.002 OPS in '96, which essentially vaulted him into the majors. Maxwell's '08 season was stalled by injuries and he hit .242/.344/.396 in AAA last year (eerily similar again!). I'm hoping this year will be his "improvement" stage and 2011 will be his breakout year. If he continues to stall out, I think he'll end up as a good 4th OF, but never a true starter.
2010 Fearless Prediction: .260/.355/.450 in AAA, .230/.325/.400 in ML
I think Maxwell will tweak his swing to hit for a higher average in AAA, but at the same time I expect his batting average to drop a bit if he plays for a more extended period in the majors. This is the last year for Maxwell to work out the kinks; at 26 years old, what you see is what you get.
Major League ETA: Now
Recent scouting notes:
"He’s on this list because he still technically qualifies as a rookie but I’m not sure he’s ever going to develop into anything more than a #4 or 5 OF. This is not necessarily a bad thing as teams need those guys, but given the expectations he had, it is somewhat of a disappointment."-Nationals Farm Authority, 12/24/09
"What you see is what you get: power, walks, speed, low batting average. Can they look past that and appreciate his secondary skills?."-MinorLeagueBall.com, 11/18/09