Byron Buxton entered Spring Training last season with everyone saying it was his time to prove he belongs in Minnesota for years to come. A disappointing 2018 season where he played only 28 games and finished with a .383 OPS and -0.3 WAR had everyone questioning if Buxton was another prospect who failed to live up to the hype. 2019 was his make or break season, and despite getting hit with the injury bug once again, he was able to show the kind of player he was capable of being.
He finished the 2019 season with a career high in just about every offensive category. His .262/.314/.513 (.827) line was excellent and the 10 home runs with 46 RBIs was solid for how long he played. If he played 140 games, which I am deeming as his goal for next season, he would have been on pace for 16 homers and 74 RBIs from the nine-hole in the order. The best thing about those above average hitting stats is that hitting is his worst skillset compared to running and fielding. That isn’t a knock on his bat, it’s just praising how excellent he is in the field and on the base paths.
His best season in the field was 2017 when he played 140 games. That was the season he received the Gold Glove for being the best center fielder, and then the Platinum Glove for being the best fielder overall. This last season he did not play enough to be considered for the award, but he was still high on the fielding leader boards.
Buxton finished sixth in outs above average with 12 and this years Gold Glove winner, Kevin Kiermaier, was at 17 despite playing 43 games more than Buxton. If Byron played as many games he would have been on pace to beat that total. Of course he also finished with the highest total 5-star catch% (0-25% catch probability) at 36.4%.
The speed from Buxton remained elite in 2019 with him finishing third in sprint speed at 30.3 ft/s. Tim Locastro and Trea Turner barely had him beat. The most concerning part about his base running was that he got caught stealing three times despite having only been caught five times in his career before last season. Okay, not actually concerning at all, but it was the only semi-bad thing about his running.
With his elite fielding and game-changing speed, he is already on the verge of stardom because of how much better the Twins were when he was on the field. He made everyone around him better, including the pitchers. If he can improve on his above average hitting (114 OPS+), then he is basically just a create-a-player from a video game.
In 2020, Byron Buxton will at least replicate last seasons statistics and if he can stretch it into a full season, he has the potential the be a 5.0 WAR or greater player which would put him among top-20 players in baseball. That would undoubtedly make him a superstar. Do you think Buxton will finally be able to stay healthy in 2020, or will we be saying this same thing next off season? Leave a comment and start the discussion.