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MAXWELL'S SILVER HAMMER ON VACATION

[October 21st] -- So, after a year of proving himself time and time again, many Nationals fans expected Justin Maxwell to just show up and dominate the Arizona Fall League. After all, he batted .281-27-73 in his first full year in the minors, and .269-2-5 with the Nationals in September.

Thus far, however, Maxwell is batting just .179-1-3 in 39 at-bats, striking out 14 times while walking just three times. His OPS is a ridiculously low .566.

Regardless whether Maxwell rebounds in the next month or not, his AFL statistics are irrelevant. Most of these players are the "creme of the crop" in their organizations, but Maxwell more than held his own against the best the Marlins and Phillies and Mets had to offer. A player doesn't just stop hitting quality pitching in three weeks. Perhaps Maxwell is tired; he played 91 games in 2006 and 140 games (so far) this year. He could also just be going through a slump right now. It happens.

Perhaps the most important reason not to read too much into Justin Maxwell's stats is fellow National and current teammate Devin Ivany. Ivany, a non-prospect, batted .240 this season in the minors yet currently leads the Javelinas with a .429-3-6 average along with a "that's not right" .1.744 OPS. If Ivany hasn't leap-frogged Jesus Flores as the team's top catching prospect, then Maxwell shouldn't be dropped below Dee Brown and Mike Daniel either.

To be sure, the kid has a future, but he has problems to solve. He struck out once every 3.5 at-bats in the minors in 2007, once every 3.2 times with the Nationals, and now is striking out once every 2.7 times in Arizona. Wily Mo Pena, the "King of K," has struck out once every 2.9 times in his career.

I think he's still "the guy" in center who's just having a tough time of it now.


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