As we count down to opening day, we’ll be taking a look at each position for the Twins, the presumed starter, and the other options in the organization. Today we’ll be looking at center field.
The Presumed Starter: Byron Buxton
Buxton... the enigma. His defense is otherworldly. He legitimately might be the best defensive outfielder in baseball, right now. That isn’t hyperbole. Offensively, however, his track record is abysmal. In four years, he has acquired 6.9 WAR in the major leagues. Two of those four years the bat has been a negative number. Last season, Buxton hit .156/.183/.200 in 28 games before injuries shut him down, and he never made it back to the show. His career numbers of .230/.285/.387 would be good enough to make him an asset to any team, but he’s put together a strong spring, and if that trend can carry through to the regular season, he could become a legitimate superstar.
This spring he has hit .448/.485/.966, which is totally unsustainable, and only covers a small sample of 33 plate appearances, but has been incredibly welcome for Twins fans looking for reasons to be optimistic about their center fielder. His 13 hits include four home runs and three doubles. He has also stolen three bases, while playing against pitchers slightly below MLB caliber—his average opponent has been of roughly Triple-A quality. Zips projects Buxton to hit a very attainable .236/.291/.395 with 12 dingers and 17 swiped bases this season. He could easily surpass those projections, and become the keystone to success the Twins drafted him to be. He could just as easily be injured or ineffective, sent to the minors, or otherwise end up as a bust.
The other issue Buxton has struggled with so far is injury, and his intense style of play has led to concerns about his long-term durability. Buxton, however, added several pounds of muscle over the offseason, and is in “the best shape of his life.”
The Bench Guys: Jake Cave or Michael Reed, Max Kepler
Barring injury, Buxton has the first crack at centerfield. While he could eventually lose the job if he is ineffective at the plate, at this point the real competition is for the fourth outfielder position. These profiles might sound a little similar to yesterday and tomorrow... because they are. Cave and Reed are very similar players, both being age-26, and capable of covering all three positions. Cave has a possible leg up based on his performance last season, but still has options, whereas Reed would face waivers if he doesn’t make the team. Jon (sorry Jon, I gave Matt credit yesterday) took us on a deeper dive into the battle between the two yesterday.
While Cave or Reed will likely be on the bench as an outfield option, Kepler will likely moonlight in center occasionally, and is a capable fill-in. In that case, expect the fourth outfield option to cover right.
Next up... Left Field
How do you feel about center field for the Twins?
This poll is closed
Buxton is putting it all together, and nothing will fall but raindrops
Wait and see, I guess.
Buxton? More like Bust-on. Bring on the Jake Cave era