Diving catches, highlight plays, injuries. That sums up Byron Buxton’s career. The 26-year-old has been in the majors for around four years now and has only had one “good” season. In 2017, when Buxton and Miguel Sano had the best seasons of their young careers. The Twins made the playoffs. (And they, of course, lost to the Yankees.) One thing of importance is that Buxton was 18th in the AL MVP race in 2017. Which is what you want from your 23-year-old outfielder who is going to be the future of your franchise.
The Twins selected Buxton with the second overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft. He started his pro career with the Gulf Coast Twins. In 26 games, Buxton batted .216. When he got called up to the Elizabethton Twins in the middle of the season, he batted .286 in 21 games. He was named the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League. The top prospect was called up to the Cedar Rapids Kernels to start the 2013 season. Buxton batted .340 with 32 stolen bases, rightfully earning a call up to the Single-A+ Fort Myers.
He was viewed as the top prospect in baseball, and he represented the Twins in the All-Star Futures Game. While batted for Fort Myers, the #2 prospect in baseball hit .326 with 23 stolen bases. He won the Midwest League most valuable player and was named the minor league player of the year by Baseball America. Buxton also won the J. G. Spink Award. He was invited to spring training in 2014, and he injured his left wrist causing him to start 2014 on the injured list. Buxton was called up to Double-A midseason, but only after batting .240.
During his first game in Double-A, he had a collision with fellow outfielder Mike Kvasnicka. Buxton was diagnosed with a concussion and didn’t see any playing time for the rest of the season. He was still with Double-A to start the 2015 season, was considered a number two, or even top prospect, and had some high expectations. On June 14, Buxton skipped Triple-A and made his major league debut. He went 0-4, but scored the winning run.
After spraining his thumb, Buxton was optioned to Rochester after being activated from the disabled list. Buxton was named the starting center fielder to start the season. After batting .156 and striking out 53% of the time, he was sent down in late April. Buxton would be called up later in the season, still striking out 39% of the time. He had the fastest sprint speed in the MLB at 30.8 feet per second.
Buxton was the starting center fielder for the Twins to start 2017. Hoping for a “breakout” season, let’s see how he did. Through August he was batting just .219, not good. Buxton hit another milestone as he recorded the fastest inside-the-park home run ever. He circled the bases in only 13.85 seconds, the fastest time ever recorded in the statcast era. The former number two overall prospect in all of the MLB hit .324 in August with eight stolen bases to go along with that. He also hit eight home runs. Finishing the season with the slash line of .253/.314/.413, only being caught stealing one time, still striking out 32% of the time. Still leading the MLB in spring speed with 30.5 feet per second, he won a Wilson Player of the Year Award, a Fielding Bible Award, a Gold Glove, and a Platinum Glove.
2018 was a year to forget. Buxton was coming in with high expectations and he didn’t even come close to hitting them. A toe injury and migraines kept him on the disabled list for most of the first half of 2018. Once he was activated from the disabled list he was optioned to Rochester. For the time he spent in the majors his slash line was .156/.183/.200, still striking out 31% of the time. At least still lead the league in spring speed.
You could call 2019 a “bounce back” year. He hit .262, still holding the fastest sprint speed in the majors. He tore his labrum in his shoulder. He was placed on the 60-day DL. The Twins hope that he will see some time in spring training, but the first half of spring training is over and Buxton hasn’t made an appearance.
Now, if he “doesn’t live up to expectations” the options are to either trade him, or still let him develop. I’m sure the Twins will not do anything, but I also think they don’t want to give up on their top pick in 2012. If we trade him, what would we trade for? A Cy Young level ace? More prospects? Another outfielder? Here are some most likely, not real trades. How next year, if Nelson Cruz retires, move Josh Donaldson to DH and trade Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton for Kris Bryant? Probably would never happen but who knows? Could we trade Buxton for MadBum? These trades would realistically most likely never happen as I’ve stated before, but we can all agree on one thing. Let’s just hope that he keeps catching baseballs.