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Has Byron Buxton hit his stride?

Byron Buxton

Once touted by ESPN writer Thomas Neumann as being “poised for greatness”, former number one prospect in baseball Byron Buxton has not risen to stardom as quick as we had hoped.

Background

Byron Buxton
Former Minnesota Twins outfielder, four time All-Star and nine time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter referred to Buxton as “Mike Trout 2” (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Former Minnesota Twins outfielder, four-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter referred to Buxton as “Mike Trout 2” in an interview with Scott Miller of Bleacher Report in 2014.

This is quite a laughable comparison now, although at that time, Buxton had been deemed a “can’t-miss prospect” by a multitude of venerable sources.

The expectations that followed being selected as the second overall pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft have been insurmountable for Buxton, as his inability to stay on the field has significantly restricted his opportunity to improve.

In the midst of a great 2013 campaign, Buxton missed time with a shoulder injury. In 2014, the then 20-year-old spent multiple stints on the disabled list with a sprained wrist and later a season-ending concussion. Mix in a broken finger, thumb and strained hamstring and you have just a snippet of his documented injury history.

Buxton’s speed and fielding ability have allowed him to make some of the most jaw dropping plays we’ve ever seen, although his reckless play style clearly has impacted his health negatively. Although, the fact that none of his injuries seemed linked to one another, or the fact that they have not included significant ligament damage, suggest that he is not injury prone, but simply an aggressive and unlucky player.

The ups and downs

Byron Buxton
Buxton was struggling mightily to begin his major-league career, batting a mere .209 with only two home runs and two stolen bases in his first 46 games. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

His first stint of long-term success came in 2013, where as a 19-year-old, Buxton batted .334 with 12 home runs, 77 RBIs and 55 stolen bases in 125 games at the low and high A levels. After the aforementioned injuries in 2014, Buxton returned to form, batting a collective .305 with seven home runs, 45 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 72 games in 2015 at the double and triple A levels.

Buxton was first called up to the Twins in mid-June of 2015. The 21-year-old Buxton was struggling mightily to begin his major-league career, batting a mere .209 with only two home runs and two stolen bases in his first 46 games.

Buxton began 2016 in triple-A, although after batting .305 with 11 home runs, 38 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 49 games he was recalled. Over the next 92 games Buxton’s major league struggles would continue, as he batted only .225 with 10 home runs, 38 RBIs and 10 stolen bases while striking out at an atrocious 35.6 percent rate.

In 2017, Buxton was afforded another opportunity to prove himself as he began the season with Minnesota. His first half went as many expected, as the now 23-year-old Buxton had batted .216 with five home runs and 16 stolen bases in 79 games while striking out over 30 percent of the time.

Although, since July, the hype around Buxton has reemerged. He finished the first half red hot, batting .387 in 10 games in July. He has continued his success heading into the second half, as he is currently batting .351 in his last 18 games, while decreasing his strikeout rate to a more respectable 22.4 percent over that span.

Buxton was once given an overall rating of 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, with a 70 hitting tool, 60 power and 80 running. His potential to become a superstar doesn’t seem likely, although he has once again grabbed our attention by being a top five fantasy outfielder over the past 15 days and top 25 over the past 30.

Concerns

Byron Buxton
The future for Buxton is bright, although I do not see him as the type of player that will help win fantasy championships in 2017. (Photo by ThreeSixty Journalism)

It is clear that Buxton has the potential to be a 20-home run/40-stolen base threat, although he undoubtedly has plenty left to prove. His inconsistency at the dish and inability to stay healthy are serious concerns.

Not to mention his BABIP in the second half is absurdly high at .425, which is obviously unsustainable and a concern moving forward. Also, he is batting primarily in the seven, eight and nine spots in the lineup, which limits his current fantasy value.

If he were to be moved back to the leadoff spot, which is where he was originally anticipated to be, his fantasy value would rise immensely.

The future for Buxton is bright, although I do not see him as the type of player that will help win fantasy championships in 2017. If he is on my dynasty roster, I would be excited for what the future holds. If I own Buxton in a keeper league format, I would be extremely skeptical of selecting him as one of my limited number of keepers, as I would not be comfortable taking the risk with all of his inconstancies and injury history heading into the 2018 season.

 

Featured Image by MLB.com

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