After many years of being a top prospect in all of baseball, experiencing the early struggles in his MLB career, to finishing 18th in MVP during 2017, only to lead to a horrible 2018 for Byron Buxton, most did not know what to expect coming into 2019. Many people thought this would be Byron’s year to prove he can still become the all star we all have been hoping for. They were right about that, but this wasn’t just a prove it year for the fans, it was also Buxton’s chance to prove himself once and for all, and he is doing exactly that.
After putting on around 20 pounds of muscle during the off season, it seemed as if Buxton had a fire lit underneath him for this season after how 2018 came to an end for him. It all started when he lit up Spring Training with ease. He was looking ready for the year to begin before the first week of Spring Training had come to an end. When the season finally did roll around, Buxton took off running and has not slowed down yet.
He currently holds a .279/.338/.484 (.822) line along with an MLB leading 18 doubles. He only has two home runs so far but that is due to pick up soon as only 2.2% of his fly balls are leaving the park despite his 92.0 exit velocity (36th in MLB), his average distance of 205 feet (34th in MLB), and the launch angle of 20.2 degrees (24th in MLB). He also has risen his wOBA to .346 and his wRC+ to 115. If he maintains the pace he is currently on he will get MVP votes again and he could even push for a spot in the All Star game.
His bat isn’t even his best tool, in fact it’s not even close when compared to his sprint speed and his fielding ability. He has proven that he is in a league of his own for fielding after winning the Platinum Glove award in 2017 and now doing it again this season. He is in 2nd place in baseball with +6 outs above average and he already has four defensive runs saved.
One major contributor to his defense is definitely his sprinting ability. He is first in all of baseball with a 30.1 ft/second on his speed. He is fifth in baseball with eight stolen bases as well. It is still an underrated tool because once he is on base, the pitcher focuses on him just as much as the batter and that gives the batter a huge advantage. After the series win versus the Angels, the Twins were 17-3 in games that Buxton scored in.
The fielding ability and the insane speed have always been there, now he is just molding into a complete player with his bat. Some of the improvements he has made this year are due to his strikeout percentage dropping to a career low 23.3% and his BABIP has risen to .367 and his fly ball percentage rising above 50%.
The strikeouts have gone down at the same rate as his chase percentage (obviously). Just last year Buxton was swinging at 37.6% of pitches outside the zone and this year it is all the way down to about 31%. The key for someone with as much speed as him is to just put the ball in play as much as he can. When he does that, he ranks 18th in baseball with a .367 average. Reducing strikeouts should equal success for Buxton.
Overall it is great to see the former #1 prospect starting to tap into his potential. Maybe I will be writing something like this for Sano soon (fingers crossed) but right now, it looks like one out of those two former prospects have broken out. Once his HR/FB% levels out from a low 2.2%, opposing pitchers will be facing a top five center fielder in all of baseball.