clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Staying Reasonable with Byron Buxton

In a rough season, it's natural to expect Byron Buxton to suddenly become one of the top hitters on the Twins roster. However, we have to keep it in perspective and recognize that he's still just 22 years old.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to another hamstring strain for Danny Santana and some hot hitting in the minor leagues, Byron Buxton has been recalled to the major leagues. He has yet to meet expectations thus far as he's mustered just a .195/.239/.316 triple-slash in 187 plate appearances. Admittedly his bat was supposed to lag behind all his other tools, but even his strengths have not necessarily been positives with the Twins. His defense was the primary reason the Twins had him in the majors in the first place, yet he's had a -12.4 UZR/150 thus far in his career (admittedly Defensive Runs Saved is more bullish as he's at a +6, though). Similarly, we constantly marvel over his speed, but he's been just 4-for-6 with stolen bases. It's not exactly the success rate that's the issue - you do expect better than 67% from someone like Buxton, though it's not awful either - but rather the lack of attempts. I suppose that does stem from his inability to get on base, but you'd think that he'd be taking off for second constantly with his speed.

This time, though, it seems that Buxton may have figured things out. After being demoted to Triple-A Rochester, he's hit .336/.403/.603 with 6 home runs and 17 extra-base hits overall, he's been perfect in four stolen base attempts, and he's even cut his strikeout rate to a more-manageable 20%.

Add it all up and it sure seems that Buxton should be closer to having things figured out. Nonetheless, I know that starved Twins fans are going to be expecting Buxton to shoot out of the gates upon his arrival. I mean, there's a reason why I was at a Twins game during the first homestand this season and a guy lamented that Buxton wasn't as good as Mike Trout yet. After all, the comparisons had been made and if they were of similar talent, they should have similar results. The man even went so far to tell me that Trout never struggled in his first taste of the big leagues (which was so false I had a hard time remaining composed in my retort) and that he was disappointed in Buxton.

Trout is arguably the best player in the majors right now and expecting another player to match him is foolish, no matter whom it may be. That's just setting up the player to be a disappointment even if he becomes a solid regular or even an All-Star. At this point of his career, I feel we shouldn't be looking for Buxton to be a wizard at the plate. It has to be baby steps, starting with his strikeout rate. He showed in Triple-A that he hasn't forgotten how to make contact, so I would be satisfied if he could start by simply cutting his strikeouts upon his return. I know, the fan base starving for wins or simply anything positive would not be pleased by just that, but we need to look for signs that suggest he's going to have consistent success. More contact is the first key, even if he's still hitting under .250 over the next few weeks. Additionally, I'd want to see him steal bases more often and more successfully.

Unfortunately, some fans are so pessimistic on him that they've basically already given up. For example, the person that argued with Myjah on Twitter that Buxton is a "Quad-A" player (the type that is too good for Triple-A but not good enough for the bigs). However, Buxton doesn't qualify on two accounts: First, he's only 22. Quad-A guys are usually 26 and older. Secondly, Buxton has played just over 40 career games at Triple-A. The players that get labeled as a Quad-A hitter are the ones that have dominated Triple-A for years, not the ones that have excelled 1/4 to 1/3 of a season there.

This is a lost season and we should be looking for positives to carry this team into next season. I'm afraid there's nothing that will magically fix this team immediately, so for our sanity it's far more beneficial to be looking for the young guys like Buxton to be making improvements rather than expecting them to instantaneously hit their peak.