It has been a fun ride for Astros fans watching Justin Maxwell take their hearts by storm over the last season and a half. Garnering love and respect from Astros fans for his personality and versatile style of play, Maxwell has hit a wall this year, a wall all too familiar with the 29 year old journeyman outfielder. Struggling with injuries in his tenure with the Nationals was a major part in his journey to his current slot in Houston, but as the injury bug has him in it’s firm grip, Maxwell’s tenure in Houston could just about be over if should he not shake the injury bug.
Entering his fourth season of major league service, Maxwell was coming off a stellar – by the Astros’ scale of excellence – 2012 playing a career high of 124 games, hitting .229, and raking in 59 RBIs for the Astros, all personal bests for Maxwell in his first full season as a Major Leaguer, but still not an everyday player for the Astros. For Maxwell, 2013 seemed bright, looking for his first real chance to earn an everyday starting job. Seeming to improve on his previous season by leaps and bounds, he started 2013 playing outstandingly for the first month of the season, almost as if he was an entirely new player after a rough spring training. But it was not long before Maxwell came down to earth and became reacquainted with his old pal, the disabled list. He suffered a broken hand after being hit by a pitch from Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma, since that day. Maxwell just has not been able to stay healthy. Struggling with his hand in rehab stints, Maxwell could not seem to get it together. In his abbreviated return, Maxwell seemed to be making a good amount of progress, starting six games and batting .250 before getting hurt in the 4th inning of his seventh game off the disabled list.
With the abundance of prospects in the farm system coupled with the struggle of staying healthy to stay on the field, I think it will come down to one of those “tough decisions” for Maxwell to be designated for assignment. I don’t know if he’ll elect free agency over being sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City in favor of one of the Astros’ top prospect to be called up to make their major league debut. Unfortunately in sports, those with a lot of promise and potential are stopped by variables that they cannot control, like injuries in Maxwell’s case, will ultimately be the downfall of their careers. As a fan of who he is and what he has accomplished in his short time with the team, I hope he fully recovers and returns better than he was before, but as a realist and I don’t want the infatuation with a possibility of him returning and blossoming to impede the progress of a major league ready prospect.
Despite there being no rush for the prospects, I would much rather have a fresh player out in place of somebody who will struggle and ultimately have no possible impact on the franchise’s future and direction. As much as I revere Maxwell, I think he’s more of a “filler” player, filling up space for the time being and contributing in the now, rather than being a player/prospect in the franchise’s long term plan. I appreciate what he’s done for the franchise, and all the hard work he has contributed, but I ultimately feel that he may not be a part of the Astros roster when the season near it’s end. I will most certainly be surprised if he returns next year and makes the club out of spring training, but what is important now is that he finds a way to come back so that he may extend his career rather than it ending when he leaves Houston.
– Richard Perez