The Jeff Luhnow-run Astros promise to be busy at each trade deadline, exchanging veterans for cost-controlled young talent. It’s simply a matter of finding the right dance partner.
Houston completed its second trade this July about an hour before the deadline when it sent center fielder Justin Maxwell to the Royals for 20-year-old Kyle Smith, a righthander who ranks fourth in the Carolina League ERA race at 2.85.
Kansas City will plug in the righty-hitting Maxwell as a platoon right fielder, with starter David Lough getting the majority of at-bats. Considering the Royals already have Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson on the big league roster, it’s hard to see how Maxwell’s ability to play an adequate center field will provide much additional value.
Kyle Smith, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Royals in fourth round of 2011 draft; signed Aug. 14, 2011
Smith had some of the most advanced pitchability in the Royals organization, something he needed as he thrives despite an average-at-best fastball. He mixes three average to above-average pitches to keep hitters off-balane. His fastball generally sits 88-90 mph, though he can jump to 92 in flashes. He locates the pitch well and has the confidence to challenge hitters with heat. While Smith pitches off his fastball, it’s his plus curveball that is his best pitch. It’s a tight downward breaker that can generate strikeouts. His changeup is an average pitch. Smith has little physical projection left, but his solid-average stuff and advanced feel give him a chance to move quickly—he’s already mastered high Class A as a 20-year-old.
Justin Maxwell, cf
Age: 29 Bats: R
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $492,500 salary for 2013 season, then arbitration-eligible for the next three season, 2014-16.
The Astros picked up the out-of-options Maxwell on waivers when the Yankees were clearing 40-man roster space at the end of spring training 2012. He didn’t fit in Houston’s long-term plans, but as an outfielder who can play all three outfield spots, he’s a reasonably useful part-timer, especially in light of his career .253/.370/.455 batting line against lefties. The less he plays against righties, the better, or so says his career .203/.272/.397 line against same-siders.