The Need for Justin Maxwell’s Power

Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

When the Royals agreed to sign Omar Infante last Friday, they did more than just fill the enormous void at second base. Inserting Infante into that spot pushed Emilio Bonifacio to a utility role off the bench, where his speed and versatility can be more valuable. Having players like that on the bench is a huge asset for teams, and the Royals with Jarrod Dyson are a prime example of that. They’ve been able to use Dyson as a pinch runner extraordinaire, and he’s been a terror on the basepaths for opposing teams in late inning situations. Putting Bonifacio’s (and presumably, Dyson’s) speed on the bench helps to shine the light on something that the Royals’ reserves appear to be sorely lacking – power.

That is where Justin Maxwell comes in.

Maxwell was acquired at the trade deadline for minor league pitcher Kyle Smith, and most people likely had low expectations. However, Maxwell was excellent offensively for the Royals, putting up a line of .268/.351/.505, with 5 home runs in 111 plate appearances, good enough for a wRC+ of 134. His ability to draw a walk (BB% of 9.9) and hit for power (ISO of .237) was something rarely seen from a Royals’ hitter, with the exception of the now-departed George Kottaras. While Maxwell came to Kansas City with a reputation as a lefty-masher (career .789 OPS v LHP), he actually had a significant reverse platoon split in 2013, OPSing .797 against righties compared to just .710 against lefties. Granted, that came in fewer than 250 plate appearances, but still an interesting note.

After the Royals traded for Norichika Aoki, their outfield became even more crowded, and with Dyson’s speed and defense being such a valuable weapon off the bench, I thought it may be possible that the team would choose to part ways with Maxwell in a trade of some sort. Now, however, it is apparent that the Royals simply must have Maxwell’s bat on their bench. Take a look at the potential bench players, and their career numbers in the majors:

Emilio Bonifacio: 79 OPS+, .078 ISO

Brett Hayes: 71 OPS+, .154 ISO

Jarrod Dyson: 81 OPS+, .137 ISO

David Lough: 91 OPS+, .118 ISO

Justin Maxwell: 101 OPS+, .202 ISO

One of these things is not like the others.

Maxwell isn’t a great defender like Dyson or Lough. He’s not a versatile speed demon like Bonifacio. He’s not a catcher like Hayes. But Maxwell can hit, and he can hit for power. Home runs aren’t everything, but it sure is nice to have a player who can come off the bench to hit them in the later innings. None of the other potential bench options have that ability, which means if the roster doesn’t see any other changes before spring, Maxwell absolutely must be with the Royals in April.

The Royals, of course, still must decide if they want to have 4 or 5 outfielders in Kansas City. Bonifacio could possibly be the 5th outfielder and pinch runner instead of keeping Dyson. Or, the team may see a lack of options in the AAA outfield and want to avoid losing a potentially impactful player like Dyson or Lough, so they may choose to keep 5 actual outfielders on the roster. Regardless of that decision, it has become imperative that Maxwell and his powerful bat are in Royal blue on Opening Day.

Topics: Justin Maxwell, Kansas City Royals

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  • jimfetterolf

    I assume the right handed Maxwell is kept. His power is apparent, he’s not slow, and he’ll be a much better defender this year with familiarity with Kauffman, a park that challenged Dyson his first few years. Dyson and Lough likely get traded with Bonifacio kept as de facto 5th OF. The alternative is go with one UIF with Colon a phone call away and decide between keeping Dyson or Lough, also, with Gordon as back up 3rd baseman.

  • flan50

    I don’t think there is any way the Royals can keep 5 OFers. Yost has proven he wants 12 pitchers, so you only have 4 bench spots. One for a catcher (hopefully they still plan to grab a better option than Hayes – still dumbfounded Kotteras was let go to save $200,000) and Bonafacio is a given. Seeing as how Bonifacio, and even Infante, can play OF in a pinch, it would seem prudent to have two backup infielders. However, my guess is KC keeps Dyson for his speed and one of Maxwell/Lough, seeing if they can deal the other. I’m a Lough fan, but the point about Maxwell’s power is very valid.

  • Marcus Meade

    I agree completely about Maxwell. He needs to stay on the roster. I hope Ned and GMDM are wise enough to go unconventional and keep both Dyson and Maxwell (I like Lough but he’s the worst of the three). This gives them the best chance of actually utilizing a bench in the game. Keeping two backup infielders, a catcher, and a backup outfielder doesn’t. With Dyson, Maxwell, and Bonifacio on the bench, the Royals have many options late in games for pinch runners, defensive replacements, and even pinch hitters (for Escobar mostly). The only fear of having only one backup infielder is what to do when someone gets injured, but they can scrape something together for a game until they can call someone up, Colon probably.

  • LGB

    Yeah lough is gone unfortunately. You gotta love his defense but he just doesn’t have a spot on this roster

  • Eddie

    Has anyone thought of if we trade Billy Butler that we can use Maxwell as the DH?

    • Christian camlin

      They will rotate guys at DH if Billy is gone.Anytime Perez does not catch he will DH.Maxwell& Dyson will also see time there and possibly whomever loses the 3rd place battle.

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  • Christian camlin

    Right now when I count the Royals players is pretty obvious someone has to go.I have 14 guys we need to keep as position players and there is no way Yost will enter the year with 11 pitchers.Obviously we will have the 9 starters.Then we will carry a backup catcher to make 10.either Hayes or Pena will be in that Role.Hving just acquired Valencia we likely will keep him and Moose regardless of whom we play at 3rd.That makes 11.Bonifacio plays every spot but catcher & pitcher and he makes number 12.Then we have Maxwell& Dyson.Maxwell is our only power guy off the bench that makes contact.And Dyson with his 64 steals in 2 years as a backup and his huge defensive range is as useful as a bench player can be.That leaves us 14.But if we trade Butler for an ace like Price we then have 13 guys and with 12 pitchers that would cover it all.The team will trade Butler.