Justin Maxwell Trade Reaction: Astros Add Another Young Arm

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


After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.