Q&A With A's 2nd Round Pick Bruce Maxwell

When the Oakland A's used the second overall pick on day two of the MLB Draft on a catcher from Birmingham Southern, many people were wondering why the A's passed on some of the higher-profile names that were still on the board. However, one look at Bruce Maxwell's statsheet made it clear why Oakland jumped at the opportunity to bring him into their organization.

The numbers Maxwell put up in 2012 for the Panthers were the stuff of video games. He hit .471 with 15 homers and a .928 SLG in 47 games. But most impressive were Maxwell's strike-out and walk totals. Despite being a power hitter, Maxwell whiffed only 11 times in 153 at-bats. He also walked a remarkable 59 times, leading to a gaudy .619 OBP.

Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere said that there were a number of scouts buzzing about Maxwell leading up to the draft and that several teams were interested in the Alabama native around the time the A's grabbed him with the 62nd overall pick. Maxwell was the first Division III player selected in 2012. Piliere placed Maxwell on his list of day two draft picks to watch.

"Maxwell was one of the best kept secrets of the entire draft," Piliere wrote in that article.

"Clearly, the pick is somewhat of a gamble given the very low level of competition that the lefty slugger faced at Birmingham Southern, and the fact that he may end up being limited to first base. On the other hand, he has outstanding plate discipline and 30 home run power potential at the big league level. Also, it's worth noting that, poor competition or not, Maxwell posted a mind boggling .619 on-base percentage this spring."

A first baseman entering college, Maxwell was moved behind the plate after his freshman year at BSU. In two short years, he developed enough defensive prowess at the position to be selected as a catcher by the A's. At 6'2'', 235, Maxwell is a bigger-bodied catcher in the mold of a Jason Varitek or Javy Lopez.

We spoke with Maxwell on Thursday, the day before he was set to sign his contract and officially join the A's organization.

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on being drafted. How are you feeling about it?

Bruce Maxwell: Thank you. It's unbelievable. I'm the first person to go past college in sports in my family, so it's a pretty big thing.

OC: What were you doing when you found out that you were drafted? Were you with your family?

BM: Yeah, I was actually at home. The A's called me about 30 or 45 minutes before the draft started and they basically gave me the offer and it included school and we'll take you at this pick. I was like, ‘alright.' I couldn't turn it down, definitely.

OC: Had you known that they were interested in you before the draft started, or was that the first phone call that you had gotten from them?

BM: It was the first phone call that I had gotten from them that indicated that high of interest. I knew that they were interested in me because they had been to a lot of my games. But I think that was the first phone call that I actually shared with Kelcey [Mucker, A's Area Scout], the guy who called [on draft day].

OC: Just looking at your numbers, you obviously have that strong plate discipline, high on-base percentage approach that the A's really like. Was that something that you knew would interest a team like the A's, or did you not really think about what different organizations might be looking for?

BM: Honestly, I felt that my approach would fit any organization. You don't find many power hitters who are actually disciplined at the plate, like I showed this year. That's going to be something that I am going to definitely try to keep up throughout my career just because that's an advantage I have against a lot of other hitters.

OC: I have never really seen a statline where you have so many walks [59] against so few strike-outs [11]. Is that something that you have always been able to do your whole career, where you have such a great sense of the strike-zone? Do umpires ever not have as good a sense of the strike-zone as you do?

BM: This year was definitely helpful because I catch. I was made more of a permanent catcher this year and it helps a lot because I sit behind the plate every inning, so I know the ins-and-outs of an umpire's strike-zone by the end of the first inning. That helps. Also, I have always had a pretty good sense of the strike-zone in general all throughout high school and through college.

I think I had 11 strike-outs this year and I had 12 last year and 12 my freshman year. I have had always had 20-plus walks. This year was the first year that I had an enormous amount of walks.

OC: The power part of your game is impressive as well. Has that always been a big part of your game dating back to high school?

BM: I was a power hitter always. I have always had power behind the ball. Just in college, with the weight program and getting into shape under my coaches' direction, I was able to use it more often because I was in shape and I was in better body form then I had been in the past.

OC: As a catcher, you are taking a beating back there behind the plate. Does that impact your offense at all or do you feel like you can handle the beating without it effecting your swing?

BM: I can handle it, definitely. You get to a certain point where your body gets used to it. All I do is make sure that my legs are fresh each and every day, or at least as fresh as they can be. Usually my hitting takes care of itself. I'm usually in the mindset that, ‘hey, I'm 100 percent every day,' no matter whether I am or not. That usually carries over to a fresh pair of legs every time I step on the field.

OC: Catching this year, do you feel like you have advanced a lot defensively?

BM: Yes, a lot. I have only been catching regularly for two years. I came into college as a first baseman only and then they started transforming me after my freshman year, so to be drafted as a catcher definitely means something. Obviously they see some potential in me and since I have only been doing this for so few years compared to most catchers, some people are pretty excited about that.

OC: What is the biggest challenge for you when you are catching? Is it blocking balls in the dirt, calling games? What do you work on most with your defense?

BM: I think going to the next level, it's going to be calling my own game. Not many people in college, period, call their own games. That's going to definitely be different, but I think I have a pretty good approach to try to master that. I try to get in good with my pitchers and my pitching coaches so that every time I step behind the plate, me and my pitchers are on the same page.

OC: Has it made you a better hitter to be a catcher?

BM: Yes. I think so. I was a pretty good hitter when I came to college, when I was a kid and everything, but being a catcher has helped a lot because I can know the strike-zone and know the strengths and weaknesses of certain types of batters and I can apply that to my own hitting. It's basically helped me understand hitting, definitely.

OC: Has the organization indicated where you will be sent out to if and when you sign?

BM: I don't know the specifics. I know that they come here to Huntsville [on Friday] and I sign my contract [on Friday]. I think I am leaving on Tuesday to head to Arizona. After that, I have no idea.

OC: Have you heard a lot about the life of a minor league baseball player? Is there anything that you are anticipating either positively or negatively about pro ball?

BM: I have heard a lot. I have a few friends in the minor leagues in different programs. My coach coached a few big leaguers so he knows his stuff. But I am positively anticipating waking up every morning and having my job be to play baseball. I did it last summer and it was a grind and when I got done I was really tired, but at the same time, every morning I woke up, I was excited. I stayed in shape. I definitely had a good summer. So I am looking for an even better career.

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