We are celebrating here at Capitol Baseball, for a myriad of reasons. The first, and probably most exciting, is that last week we hit our 200th post ever! The second reason is that it is now the 10th edition of our ongoing series identifying faceless names who have occupied the Nationals' uniform. What better way to celebrate our tin anniversary than with a very special edition of Former Nats Greats. Who will be the very honored 10th member into the club?
Wait for it...
Wait for iiiiiiiiiiiit...
Maryland-native, Justin Maxwell!
If you are a regular reader of Capitol Baseball you probably know by now that Jmax has become my punching bag. As long as there are players that don't pan out, I will use Maxwell in comparison. Its not that I don't appreciate the guy for being a stand-up teammate and above average defender, its that he was given chance, after chance, after chance to succeed, failing every step of the way.
Lets take a look at his way-too-long Nationals career.
Maxwell's arbitration clock started way too soon when GM Jim Bowden decided that it would be a good idea for him to get a cup of coffee in the Majors after just a half season at A+ ball. He would go on to have the best performance that September of '07. It didn't take him very long to show off his 5-tool potential as he got a Grand Slam for his very first Major League hit, in his 3rd at bat. Maxwell would see limited action for the month, garnering just 26 at-bats, but he put up some average numbers; .269 AVG, .796 OPS. 2 HR. 5 RBI. 0.0 WAR.
This is where Maxwell's career would begin to stumble. After a somewhat successful 2008 Spring Training, Maxwell was sent to AA Harrisburg but would only play 43 games because of a broken wrist.
Flash forward to spring of 2009, where Maxwell was expected to challenge for a roster spot. His spring did not impress the Nats brass and he was sent to AAA to start the season. As the year went on Nationals had Jmax made the Syracuse to Washington trek 3 times according to his player page on SB Nation. During his brief appearances he was never able to string together any sort of positive momentum, only negative. He finished the year with a paltry .247 AVG. .793 OPS. and just 9 RBIs in 89 ABs. Worse still was that as time went on, his career strikeout percentage increased drastically, reaching a 36% strikeout rate in 2009.
Spring training 2010: the Chance. In a move that shocked the baseball world, the Nationals released Elijah Dukes, who many predicted to be the starting Right Fielder for the 2010 club. Justin Maxwell finally had an opportunity, and it was clear that the execs were ready for him to finally step into the role. How did he deal with it?
20 Games. 50 At Bats. 5 Hits. 1 HR. 4 RBI. 9 Total Bases. 21 K. .100 AVG. .413 OPS.
Wow. Talking about folding in the face of pressure. Needless to say, Maxwell did not earn a starting job with the team, or even a bench role; at the end of camp (at age 26) he was sent back to AAA. 4 call-ups and 3 options back down, never doing enough to earn a job, Maxwell put up some of the most heinous offensive numbers this club has seen from a non-pitcher. In 26 games where he had more than 1 AB, he got more than 1 hit a grand total of 3 times; each time being just 2 hits...
2010: 67 games. 108 At-Bats. 15 Hits. 3 HR. 12 RBI. 25 BB. 43 K. .144 AVG. .594 OPS.
2010 Saber: 21.9 UZR/150. 0.4 WAR. 41.3 K%.
Career: .201 AVG. .698 OPS. 9 HR. 26 RBI. 1.4 WAR. 20.6 UZR/150.
Now, Maxwell had fantastic defense, and I love defense, but there is no possible way that any team could afford to have him be anything other than a defensive replacement, because he brings nothing to the table offensively. Another thing I love about him is that he went 3 for 6 with the bases loaded, with 3 HR. Unbelievable. I also find it amazing that he was a positive WAR player, due only to the fact that Fangraphs uses defensive metrics into their calculations, if not... Ouch.
After 5 years in the system without learning how to lay of breaking balls out of the zone. After 3 years of back and forth. After countless chances to win a spot in the lineup. After increasing his K% every year in the system. After being a Jimbo 5-tool player special of the year, of the week. It was time to say goodbye.
I was thrilled when the Nationals finally cut bait with 27 year-old Justin Maxwell on January 27th. I was elated when I found out that Mike Rizzo was able to get anything other than a bag of balls in return.
I wish Jmax the best of luck with the Yankees, and I really hope that he is one day able to figure out how to hit Major League pitching. Congrats to you on become our tin anniversary representative to the Former Nats Great collection.
Note to the Yankees: maybe instead of using the DH for the pitcher, you can bolster your defense by having the pitcher hit while you use your DH for Jmax. Just a nickel's worth of free advice.
Until next time, leave you favorite Maxwell memories in the Comments section!