The move in claiming Justin Maxwell off waivers from the Yankees did not create a big stir in the Greater Houston area, but the blast he hit last night sure did. I have been following Maxwell as a prospect for several years, from a fantasy perspective, and I will admit that when I heard the news I personally yelped with joy . . . much to the annoyance of my wife.
Justin Maxwell, in a nutshell, is one of those players that needed a change of scenery. He needed to get out from under the thumb of the Washington Nationals development staff and get a real opportunity to succeed. The Nationals have taken two players that could be quality major leaguers (Maxwell and injury prone catcher Jesus Flores) and turned them into borderline major leaguers, AAAA type players simply by arbitrarily limiting their opportunities.
Would you take these stats from your MLB CF over 400 PA? .343 OBP, .793 OPS, 16 HR, 36 XBH, 24 SB? That's what Maxwell did if you project out his 100 PA for the Nationals in 2009. He compiled those stats while playing mostly part time and as a PH, he didn't really get a chance to start regularly until a Sept callup . . . what did he do with consistent playing time? 19/65 H/AB, .292/.370/.554, 8 XBH, 4 HR, 3 SB . . . but he still never started more than 5 games in a row. I would have thought with the Nationals uncertainty in CF he would go into 2010 as the starter . . . but the Nationals jerked him around again, gave him inconsistent playing time and Maxwell simply became frustrated. He didn't know what he was supposed to do to get regular playing time only that he had to do "better" so he started pressing and that's not good for anyone in the MLB. That lead to an awful 2010 and it seems from there that the Nationals just gave up on him.
In 2011 he went to the Yankees, but that wasn't any good for him because they are and were loaded in the outfield. In addition, injury limited him to 48 games at AAA . . . he put up a .260/.358/.588 line with 16 HR and 11 SB in only 177 AB before the injury. Then he came into spring training with the Yanks again loaded at OF and simply went .310/.408/.429 with 6 SB. He was designated for assignment and scooped up by the Astros on waivers.
What does Justin Maxwell bring to the Astros? He brings a TTO bat to the lineup that the Astros were hoping they would get from Jack Cust, but Maxwell adds great speed and league average OF defense to that equation. What could we realistically expect if he was allowed to play every day? In 600 PA I would expect this sort of a stat line . . . BA around .240, OBP near .360, OPS around .825 . . . 20 HR and 35 SB . . . he would walk 100 times and K 150 times at least.
I wouldn't mind him getting starter's ABs in CF and/or RF. Schafer is 25 years old, but has not proven he can hit consistently or with any pop in twice as many PA/AB as Maxwell has been allowed at the MLB level. Bogusevic is seen as an OF prospect with some pop, but he is only 3 months younger than Maxwell is. I wouldn't move JD Martinez off of LF because then the Astros brass would be guilty of doing to him what the Nationals did to Maxwell three years ago.
That's my take on the newest Astro . . . I hope we can get him consistent AB's . . . he could, for the Astros, turn into what Nelson Cruz has been for the Rangers, but with flip-flopped power/speed potential.