Vermont Lake Monsters: Hitter Of The Year

"[Maxwell's] talent is awesome."

Posted Sep 14, 2006


The New York-Penn League is not one that is typically known for outstanding offensive performances and the Vermont Lake Monster offense was no exception. No one put up staggering statistics or dominated the league, but a handful of players still managed to stand out. Now, CapitolDugout.com will hand out the award for the Vermont Lake Monsters' Hitter Of The Year.

Usually dominated by freshly drafted college pitchers, the New York-Penn League is rarely kind to even the most promising hitters. Vermont finished with a team batting average of .232 in 2006, good for 10th in the league and were near the bottom of the charts in just about every other offensive category. But, that's not to say they didn't have their share of offensive contributors.

One of the Nationals' best raw power hitting prospects, Francisco Guzman and his sometimes explosive bat has captured the imaginations of Washington's player development department over the past year. He's battled through inconsistency and trouble making contact, but also has flashed colossal power and a rare sound off his bat. He certainly made strides towards meeting that huge potential in 2006. For the year, he hit .261 with a team leading 5 home runs to go along with 35 RBI.

"I root for this kid to want it as bad as I do," Minor League Field Coordinator, Scott Little recently told CapitolDugout.com. "He has a rare sound off his bat. He could be an impact guy if he wants it. We’ll see."

Checking in at second place is lefty hitting outfielder, Mike Daniel. The 22-year-old was a 7th round draft pick in the 2005 draft out of the University of North Carolina and really began to come into his own with Vermont in 2006. Hitting .304, Daniel led the team in batting average and also pitched in 3 home runs, 3 triples, 8 doubles and 18 RBI. Perhaps the only disturbing statistic he had was his 52 strikeouts in 181 at-bats. After such a strong showing, all signs point to an opening day appearance in Savannah in 2007.

He was the team's steadiest hitter all year long, manning the third spot in the order for just about the entire season. Justin Maxwell is his name and it's a name that the Nationals hope will be a big part of their future in the coming years. He began the season battling injuries as he had for a large part of his collegiate career, but once he got healthy, he joined Vermont and became their most potent offensive weapon. Aside from a tough July in which he hit only .223, Maxwell was the centerpiece of the Lake Monster offense. For the year, he batted .269 with 4 home runs and 33 RBI. But, he didn't just do it at the plate, but on the bases as well. He also swiped 20 bases on the season. For all these reasons, he's our 2006 Vermont Lake Monsters' Hitter Of The Year.

"Justin has battled through some injuries early in the season," Assistant Director of Player Development, Nick Manno told CapitolDugout.com. "He began the season in extended spring training because his knee was giving him problems and then while in Savannah, he had a stress fracture in his toe. But, since he has been in Vermont playing healthy, he has done a pretty good job for us."

"A lot of playing time will be the key," Field Coordinator, Scott Little added. "He is facing challenges and hopefully he’ll be better for it. Baseball is a hard game. His talent is awesome, and mental toughness is the key."


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