Astros not devoid of fantasy talent after all 

April, 1, 2013
The Houston Astros own baseball's best record -- OK, so it's a bit misleading! -- after Sunday's 8-2 opening night win over their in-state rival, the Texas Rangers, and while it's hardly a harbinger to make World Series plans, it's still fun to see unheralded players such as outfielder Justin Maxwell, who perhaps you've considered owning in a deep fantasy league, perform well. Maxwell certainly played a key role in the victory, delivering a two-run triple to get the scoring started in the fourth inning and then later walking and adding another three-base hit.

[+] EnlargeHouston Astros uniforms
Juan DeLeon/Icon SMIJustin Maxwell, No. 44, is part of a core of enticing young Astros talent, including (from left) Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, Jarred Cosart, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
I've long been intrigued by Maxwell, now 29, since he clearly showed the tools to contribute in home runs and stolen bases while toiling in the minors for years in the Washington Nationals' organization. In 2007, he hit 27 home runs and stole 35 bases! As recently as 2011 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the New York Yankees' system, he hit 16 home runs and stole 11 bases in 48 games. The somewhat desperate Astros took a look at him last year and were rewarded with 18 home runs and nine steals in barely half a season of at-bats. He has signature flaws at the plate, but still I find it odd that people seem so pessimistic about Maxwell. After all, he's going to play, which is half the battle.

While most look simply at Maxwell's low batting average and high strikeout total as a reason to expect the worst, I see potential. He's not likely to ever contend for a batting title, but he has an enticing blend of power and speed. It's not a good Astros team, and prospect George Springer, likely the team's future in center field, isn't quite ready, so Maxwell has the center-field job to himself right now, certainly against left-handed pitching, against which he hit those triples Sunday. I don't expect Maxwell, who hit .229 last season in the majors, to hit higher than .250, not with his lack of plate discipline and struggles against right-handers, but as long as he provides power and speed, that's OK.