Now that we've all dug out of this weeks' snowstorm and steel ourselves for next week's apocalyptic storm, let's take a look at yesterday's big news, the DFA of OF Justin Maxwell to make room for Todd Coffey on the 40-man roster.

Maxwell, 27, is a toolsy outfielder: tall and lean, strong and fast.  He plays very good defense in centerfield, and has solid power -- when he makes contact.  That's been the biggest thing holding him back from making "the jump".

He's got a lifetime .261/.357/.442 slash line in the minors in 1778 plate appearances, so he has talent.  Despite a not-so-great batting average, he still has a good eye in the minor leagues, getting on base at a solid clip and showing good power for a guy that can play center field like he can.

So why are so many ready to throw dirt on the guy?

Let's compare the numbers of four Nats outfielders in their first three seasons in the bigs.  Three of these players debuted at 23, the other at 24.  But all the stats below were accrued before the player turned 27.

Player A:  122 games; 269 plate appearances; 9 HRs; 26 RBIs; .201/.319/.379.
Player B:  107 games; 337 plate appearances; 3 HRs; 37 RBIs; .300/.365/.397.
Player C:  130 games; 430 plate appearances; 18 HRs; 63 RBIs, .255/.329/.461.
Player D:  163 games; 552 plate appearances; 11 HRs; 49 RBIs; .241/.306/.364.

Granted, these are tremendously small sample sizes, but it's that size that Mike Rizzo just made his judgment on Maxwell.

Can you guess which stat line goes with which Nats' outfielder?

There's only one whose OBP is more than 100 points higher than his batting average, Player A.  That shows a keen, almost elite eye at the plate. If we could only coax a bit more contact out of him, we might have the making of a Major League hitter.

Player B looks like a slap-hitting singles hitter, his high average is supporting his OBP.

Player C already is showing some real good power, but it's coming at the expense of plate discipline.

Player D looks lost.  There's some raw power in there, but isn't making contact or showing any patience.

You've probably guessed by now the identities of our four players.  In order:  Maxwell, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, and Roger Bernadina.

This exercise is almost pointless.  But it illustrates just how little evaluative time sometimes general managers have to make a decision on a player.  And Maxwell has received the fewest plate appearances of any of the four to display his talent.

Whether Maxwell clears waivers and stays in the system, or goes somewhere else, he has the requisite talent to be a good ballplayer.  Someone just needs to convince him to shorten his swing and let his natural talent take over.  He already has the skill of plate discipline -- he knows the difference between a ball and a strike. 

What's wrong with him is fixable.

Oh, and my last point: over 131 plate appearances last season, in which his batting average was .141, his BABiP (remember, league average is right around .300) was a less-than-paltry .200 exactly.  So it wasn't just the strikeouts.

4 comments

  1. BinM // January 28, 2011 at 8:46 PM  

    Yes, but at age 27, could Randy Knoor or Jerry Browne really 'fix' him? I think not.

  2. Dave Nichols // January 28, 2011 at 11:01 PM  

    BinM, thanks for the comment. Stranger things have happened. I wasn't particularly advocating keeping Maxwell on the roster really. Just an intering case study, especially considering the other "late bloomers" on the roster. Why did/do those players continue getting chances and not Maxwell at this point? I guess Rizzo only knows.

  3. bdrube // January 29, 2011 at 11:29 AM  

    The problem is that there are many more potential "late bloomers" all around baseball than there are roster spots to keep them all. I hope Maxwell clears waivers and I'd be tickled if he went to Syracuse, figured it all out and forced his way by performance back to the big club this year.

    But the odds are very much stacked against him.

  4. Dave Nichols // January 29, 2011 at 12:43 PM  

    bdrube, thanks for joining in. I'll be surprised if Maxwell clears waivers, and agree that baseball is full of stories like his. it will be interesting if to watch if something clicks for him this year, wherever he ends up.