Justin Maxwell is an athletic five-tool college athlete who at the age of 26 is still trying to put it all together. Maxwell was drafted three times in his amateur career before finally deciding to sign with the Nationals in 2006.
The six-foot-five outfielder experienced a very successful early college career at the University of Maryland. Coming from local Sherwood High School, Maxwell played in 44 games in his freshman campaign, and despite only hitting .239, he got on-base at a promising .393 OBP. In 2003, Maxwell exploded in his sophomore season with a line of .317/.385/.550. He also smacked 10 homers, 12 doubles, and swiped 11 bags. With numbers like that, Maxwell turned many eyes going into his junior year, only to battle injuries for the rest of his college career. Maxwell was only healthy enough to play 7 games in 2005 after missing all of 2004, but he still showed enough potential to be drafted in the fourth round by Washington.
Maxwell started his professional career with mixed success in the summer of 2006. As a 22-year-old in low A ball Maxwell hit a disappointing .269 and showed poor power with a slugging percentage of .376. However despite his struggles to drive the ball he was still able to show his patience by getting on base at .346 and speed by stealing 20 bases. In 2007 Maxwell rebounded as he combined for 27 home runs and 35 stolen bases between AA Hagerstown and A+ Potomac. His performance even earned him a cup of coffee in Washington at the end of the season where he earned his first career hit in the form of a grand slam against the Florida Marlins.
In 2008 Maxwell shattered his wrist diving for a ball in the outfield. The injury put an end to what was a promising start of the season. Through 43 games in AA Harrisburg, Maxwell had reduced his K% from 30.8% to 19.2% and was walking at a career high 17.5%. Maxwell’s on base percentage was again solid at .367 which was good considering his .233 batting average. His low average was probably a result of his poor .243 BABIP, however his power numbers were up with a .226 Isolated Power.
2009 saw Maxwell return to some of his old habits in AAA however. His K% rose to the highest in his career at 35% and his walk percentage dropped down to 12.3%. Even with his BABIP at .340, Maxwell was only able to bat .242 with a decreased .154 ISO. The outfielder earned a 40 game cup of coffee at the end of the season with the Nationals and had almost identical numbers to his AAA splits.
For Maxwell to be successful at the next level he needs to cut down on his K%. A .340 BABIP is unsustainable and his great strength and power potential wont matter if he strikes out too much in the majors to make himself valuable. He does have the tools to be a good MLB outfielder because he has the patience to get on base, and he has very good speed on both the base paths and in the field. At the age of 26 he’s no spring chicken and he may running out of time, however he will get a chance to make the Nationals out of spring training and a chance to improve on his weaknesses.
It’s likely now or never for the former-Terp.