After foolishly parting with their top prospect who would have been the club’s right fielder for at least decade or so, the Royals turned to Houston for a suitable replacement. The Astros, who are literally selling anything not nailed down, had the late-blooming Justin Maxwell and a devilish grin when Kansas City beckoned.
And for an organization that can’t seem to develop starting pitching, the Royals figured one of their better pitching prospects – right-hander Kyle Smith – would be a suitable price.
Maxwell, 29, had a bit of a breakout season for the ‘Stros in 2012, hitting .229/.304/.460 while slugging 18 homeruns and swiping nine bags in 124 games. And according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total offensive production was 7% above the league average. Throw in some solid defense, and Maxwell was worth two wins above replacement, the quintessential league average regular.
Maxwell wasn’t without his flaws, however. His K-rate last season, a whopping 32.4%, was the third highest in baseball. Oh, and there are those pesky platoon splits he’s shown throughout his career: .253/.370/.455 vs. LHPs and .203/.273/.397 vs. RHPs.
And, yet, for all his flaws – the huge K-rate, the fact that he’s a very late bloomer, and has a major career platoon split – the Royals offered up the 20-year-old Smith, whom I ranked as the Royals’ fifth best prospect prior to the year.
After dominating Class A in 2012 (11.63 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9), Smith has more than held his own in High-A, though some of the artificial numbers (like ERA) are up bit deflated by Wilmington’s home park. But in 19 starts, he’s averaged 8.28 K/9 and 2.50 BB/9 to go along with a solid 3.51 SIERA.
Admittedly, I like Smith more than the average person. And this isn’t a terrible trade for Kansas City, especially considering the attrition rate of young pitchers. But it’s the equivalent of putting a Band Aid on an open gash. As for the Astros, well, their farm system just keeps getting better and better.
Photo of Justin Maxwell Courtesy of Getty via MLB.com