Name: Bruce Maxwell
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 235
How Acquired: Selected in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft
Three-and-a-half seasons into his professional career, Bruce Maxwell is still far from a finished product at the plate. His defense has improved considerably during that stretch, but he still has yet to reach the levels of production one would expect from a player of his raw talent at the plate.
The left-handed hitting catcher was the A’s second-round pick in 2012 out of Birmingham-Southern. Maxwell put together video game numbers at the Division III school. During his junior season, Maxwell had more homers (15) than strike-outs (11).
Since turning pro, Maxwell has continued to show good bat control. In 1,335 career at-bats, Maxwell has struck-out just 245 times (18% K-rate). However, he has yet to translate the power that he showed in college and continues to show in batting practice into games. He has 15 career homeruns (one every 211.5 at-bats) and a .346 career SLG.
Bruce Maxwell Statistics
The 2015 season was Maxwell’s first full year in Double-A. He spent the second half of the 2014 season with the RockHounds and struggled mightly with the bat. In 85 at-bats, he hit .141 and had an uncharacteristically high number of strike-outs (32). His offensive numbers improved considerably with Midland in 2015, although they still weren’t at the levels he posted in A-ball. In 338 at-bats with the RockHounds, Maxwell hit .243/.321/.308. He struck-out just 54 times and he had 39 walks.
One of the biggest challenges for Maxwell has been to control his emotions from at-bat to at-bat and game-to-game. Midland’s home ballpark is notoriously tough on left-handed hitters such as Maxwell, frequently turning homeruns and doubles into loud outs. Maxwell has struggled at times to recognize when he has had a quality at-bat even when he has made an out.
“For him, it’s a matter of understanding ‘yes, these are quality at-bats and these are okay and not be caught-up in the results’,” 2015 Midland RockHounds’ hitting coach Eric Martins said. “He’s just so emotional. It’s hard to get that guy who is so emotional to understand that because he is passionate and he wants to do well. At the same time, it’s like, okay, we are playing 140 games and you are going to go through spurts.
“It’s a matter of trying to put together a quality at-bat each time and hit the ball hard. If you do that, then hey, things are going to work out okay, and not get caught up with the ‘well shoot, here we go again. I hit the ball hard but I hit it right at them.’ That just kind of wears you and then you start chasing the hits. ‘I need to get the hit. I have to get the hit.’ You can’t perform that way.”
Martins says that Maxwell is one of the best hitters in the A’s system at using the whole field and going the other way. Maxwell’s 2015 spray chart shows that many of his groundballs were pulled on the ground, but that his flyballs and linedrives were pretty evenly distributed around the field. Maxwell’s all-field approach has, at times, prevented him from tapping into his prodigious power.
“Bruce has got as much power as anyone that we have,” Martins said. “It’s just a matter of trying to tap into what Bruce wants to do. I think the past couple of years, we have tried to come in and turn him into a power guy because he’s got so much raw power. But Bruce really goes the other way as well as anybody that I know.
“I think with him figuring out ‘okay, this is what I want to do and then picking and choosing when I want to turn on some balls and pull some balls.’ I think if you look at Bruce’s numbers, they don’t jump out at you, but he doesn’t strike-out much. He puts the ball in play and he had some quality at-bats. He hit the ball hard all over the field.”
Maxwell has an outstanding work ethic and that ethic has borne itself out with his improvements defensively. He came into professional baseball with more experience at first base than behind the plate. Maxwell embraced the challenge to improve his work behind the plate and that work has had its dividends. He has become much more reliable behind the plate. In 78 games at catcher this season, Maxwell was charged with just two errors and five passed balls. His caught-stealing percentage dropped to 22% from 37% in 2014, but he has shown the ability to keep runners honest with his arm.
Maxwell shared his playing time during the first half of the 2015 season with Carson Blair. After years of slow development, Blair had a breakthrough age-25 season, reaching Triple-A and the big leagues for the first time. Maxwell turns 25 in December and will be looking for a similar breakthrough in 2016.