Bruce Maxwell Should Start the Season in Nashville

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Maxwell has developed into a good player. You could make a not-so-crazy sounding argument that he's the A's best catcher. And while he's struggled at the plate this spring, most of the projection systems think he'd be a fine contributor over the course of a full MLB season. And yet, it makes the most sense to leave him in Nashville to begin 2017.

For all their holes, the A's have a lot of catching depth. Stephen Vogt was Oakland's lone All-Star in 2017 and Josh Phegley has turned into a good, if unremarkable, platoon option. Both leave something to be desired defensively, but at the same time, both provide steady veteran hands to anchor the A's young pitching staff.

In evaluating a potential trade, Vogt's best asset is that he's a catcher. Even if you disregard his down 2016 campaign, his bat has never played as well at first base or in the DH spot, and thus moving him from behind the plate would be a real risk for the A's.

The A's could carry three catchers and have Vogt catch sometimes, play first sometimes, and DH sometimes. And it's even possible that by removing the burden of catching everyday, Vogt's offense would improve. But it seems equally likely that he could remain a slightly above average hitter at a premium offensive position.

Perhaps more importantly, however, Maxwell could use another half-season of development in AAA. Catchers develop slowly. Catchers coming out of Division III schools develop even slower. And catchers like Bruce Maxwell, who had to focus so much of his development attention on improving the defensive side of his game, take even longer to develop offensively.

Maxwell has already moved fairly quickly through the A's minor league system. When he was drafted in 2012, he was viewed as the type of player who could develop into a power hitting monster. His pop all but disappeared in 2014 & 2015, but showed up again over 200 plate appearances in AAA last season.

If given the chance to fully develop, Bruce Maxwell could become a .260/.340/.440 guy capable of hitting 15-20 home runs. His defensive game is already MLB ready. Give him three months in AAA, showcase Stephen Vogt, and plan on flipping Vogt for a prospect or two come summer.