Sunday, February 14, 2010

Do or Die Time: Justin Maxwell

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Next in line of my "Do or Die Time" prospects to take a closer look at is outfielder Justin Maxwell. Check out my previous posts on Adrian Alaniz, Michael Burgess and Chris Marrero if you have a chance.

Justin Maxwell, 26 years old, OF
Drafted 4th round, 114th overall in 2005.

2009 stats:
Syracuse-AAA: .242/.344/.396, 10 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 42 RBI, 68 R, 35/43 SB (448 PA)
Washington-ML: .247/.343/.449, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 13 R, 6/7 SB (102 PA)

Career stats:
Minors: .257/.351/.442, 54 2B, 15 3B, 52 HR, 193 RBI, 233 R, 104/129 SB (1506 PA)
Majors: .252/.333/.461, 4 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 18 R, 6/7 SB (129 PA)

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?.", 11/18/09


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