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Maxwell’s make-or-break moment

Mar 2, 2010, 9:32 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
At 26, Justin Maxwell may be running out of time to stick in the majors.

VIERA, Fla. — Justin Maxwell has been on the Nationals' radar screen for some time now. It's been 2 1/2 years since the Olney, Md., native made his big-league debut, launching a grand slam into the bleachers in Miami in his third career at-bat, and fans and club officials alike have understandably been anticipating his permanent arrival ever since.

The outfielder's arrival, though, didn't come as quickly as some would have liked. Beset by injuries and an inability to produce consistently at the plate, Maxwell has spent only minimal time in the majors since that noteworthy debut in Sept. 2007. And as he enters his third spring in big-league camp, he's still yet to establish himself as a productive enough hitter to stick in Washington.

He's certainly looked at times like a complete player, a fine defensive center fielder and baserunner who can hit for power. But he's yet to do it for prolonged stretches, in part because he hasn't been able to stay healthy.

Thus at age 26, Maxwell suddenly finds himself at a make-or-break moment with his hometown organization. Barring an injury to Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan or Elijah Dukes, there isn't an available starting job in the Nats' outfield. But with only 55 games of big-leagueRead more »

  1. TBC - Mar 2, 2010 at 9:41 PM

    Isn't Maxwell one of the guys who's out of options now? Meaning that in order to send him to SYR they'd have to pass him through waivers?

  2. Dave Nichols - Mar 2, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    there's a lot of love for Maxwell out there, but you hit the nail on the head pointing out he's already older than Zim, Lannan, Flores and Dukes.

  3. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 2, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    TBC: I thought so, but after examining it closer, it appears Maxwell does have one more option year left. Though he made his debut in Sept. 2007, that was the first time he was added to the 40-man. So he's only been optioned twice: in 2008 and 2009. That leaves him with one more option this year, if I understand it correctly.

  4. Wigi - Mar 2, 2010 at 9:51 PM

    Doesn't that set him up to be Jason Bergmann'd – he has options, so he goes down?I am not saying that is the right philosophy when putting together a major league team… but I bet that raises the bar a bit… a tie goes to the player that is out of options.Does Bernadina have options? My guess is, yes, but it is just a gut feeling.

  5. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 2, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    Yes, Bernadina has an option left, too. And yes, the options game always plays a role with those final roster decisions at the end of camp (and throughout the season). We've seen it happen to Bergmann, we saw it happen to Kory Casto and we saw it happen to Maxwell last year.

  6. Craig - Mar 2, 2010 at 10:34 PM

    Love the article on about you! Great stuff. We would all be thrilled if you could stay on the entire season. Also, are you planning on doing a percentage of bench players or bullpen like you did with the rotation? That would be awesome.Link::

  7. peric - Mar 2, 2010 at 10:41 PM

    They are getting pretty crowded down in SYR with all the veteran AAA signings which include Tavares, Duncan, Owens, Loadenthal, Moresi, Smith plus Mike Daniel and Leonard Davis were promoted last year. That outfield looks just as crowded for both Maxwell and Bernadina to get playing time. I'm not sure but it would seem more likely that trades would be in the offing? Perhaps not?

  8. e - Mar 2, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    Mark — I'm sure you've got plenty of other things to do, but if you have a moment could you inquire as to whether Opening Day tickets sold out today? As of 5:40pm, I (once again) tried to purchase 3 tickets. Each section I chose gave me the "not enough seats together, try another section". Then I tried 2. Same result. Then 1. Same result. I find it hard to believe that the Nats sold out every single seat (including the Lexus Presidential Seats)!

  9. Farid in Idaho - Mar 2, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    I think that Maxwell should platoon with Nyjer Morgan in center in 2010.Hear me out.Last year, Morgan batted .175/.283/.223 against lefties but .344/.395/.434 against righties. For his career, he is .200/.302/.284 against lefties.For his career, Maxwell has batted .286/.352/.429 against lefties at the major league level.They are near equals defensively, and Maxwell steals a base every 16 at-bats compared to Morgan's one every 13 at-bats.If you use Morgan's numbers against righties (at 400 at-bats) and Maxwell's against lefties (200 at-bats), you get a platoon that looks like this:.327-12-61, 43 steals, .383 OBP/.432 SLGThat would protect the Nationals at the top of the order against lefties and would give the team enough major league at-bats to decide if Maxwell is a full time player.Ted Williams platooned five of his eight starting positions in 1969, hid their imperfections (Lee Maye: .094 against lefties) and won 86 games with a team of not-very-good players. I think it would work.

  10. Nervous Nats Fan - Mar 2, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    I liked the story on ESPN. Do you have other ideas up your sleeve for how to get continuing donations? Could you set up some kind of automatic monthly payment? I am loving the blog and would be happy to continue contributing, but can't do it all at once.

  11. peric - Mar 2, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    Maxwell is a better fielder than Willingham. So, you could see him there as well as center field. Harris the left handed bat is also there. Again, you have to wonder what the trade possibilities are for Wille Harris as teams like the Rangers, who voided Kahil Green's contract, start looking around. It looks to me like something has to give before the end of spring and beginning of May … I may be wrong but …

  12. greg - Mar 2, 2010 at 11:59 PM

    texas is looking for a utility infielder, someone who could play SS (remember, greene was SS/3B) as well. i don't know if green really fits that need.

  13. Anonymous8 - Mar 3, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    Bernadina has the upper hand in my opinion being the lefty batter and I think he would still be the fastest on the team although Tony Plush may disagree.I would love to see Bernadina get the bunt as part of his arsenal.

  14. Traveler8 - Mar 3, 2010 at 12:12 AM

    I also liked the ESPN article – kind of exciting, being part of a new wave.

  15. Anonymous - Mar 4, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    Not sure what WaPo was thinking not hiring you. Compare this Maxwell article to Kilgore's (also posted today) and his is a joke. So much more depth and insight in your article. Sad.





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