30 Prospects in 30 Days: Byron Buxton — Minnesota Twins
Byron Buxton was the second overall draft pick in the 2012 draft by the Minnesota Twins. The 6-2, 190 pound centerfielder is known for his blazing speed and his incredible defensive attributes. Buxton, 22, has come along a little slower than most had hoped, in large part due to injuries.
Buxton has been one of the top prospects in baseball since being drafted. While he has yet to have much success in the big leagues, he certainly has the potential and has shown signs of reaching that potential in the minor leagues.
Byron Buxton is rated as the #2 prospect in the league according to MLB.com, behind Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. MLB.com has Buxton has a future Gold Glove centerfielder, with exceptional speed both in the field and on the base paths.
Baseball Prospectus has Buxton as their #2 prospect, as they too have Corey Seager as their top prospect.
Keith Law had Buxton as the #2 prospect coming into the 2015 season, but he did not make the midseason list because he was called up to the Twins.
Before getting the call to join the Twins, Buxton split time in AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester. In Chattanooga, Buxton played 59 games, where he had six home runs, 37 RBI, 20 steals, and a slash line of .283/.351/.489. Buxton would also spend time in AAA Rochester, where he would play just 13 games. He had one home run, eight RBI, and two stolen bases in 13 games, with a slash line of .400/.441/.545 during his time in AAA.
Strikeouts were an issue coming into the big leagues as he had 51 strikeouts in 59 games in AA Chattanooga and 12 strikeouts in 13 games in AAA Rochester. Things didn’t change when he got the call to the Twins.
Buxton spent 46 games in the big leagues in 2015, with two home runs, six RBI, and a slash line of .209/.250/.326. Perhaps the biggest disappointment during his first stint in the big leagues was that he had only two stolen bases. With an on-base percentage of just .250, he didn’t spend too much time on base with a chance to steal. Buxton has the speed to steal upwards of 30 bases or more at the major league level.
Buxton, a right-handed hitter, actually had better numbers against righties than he did against lefties. Buxton hit .256 against righties, while hitting just .116 against lefties, though the sample sizes are obviously small. Both of his home runs in the bigs came off right-handed pitching.
In a year where prospects were called up to their big league team and started dominating right away, Buxton did not fit into that category. Kris Bryant won the NL Rookie of the Year award, Carlos Correa won AL Rookie of the Year, Joc Pederson hit 26 home runs, and Miguel Sano hit 18 home runs with 52 RBI in half of a season for the Twins. Those were just four rookies that highlighted a class that might be the best rookie class ever.
Many believe that Buxton will grow into a true five-tool player in the Twins outfield for the foreseeable future. He has been said to have “plus plus speed” with an exceptional arm. With the retirement of Torii Hunter, Buxton will likely begin the season as the Twins starting center fielder but could find his way back to Rochester if his swing doesn’t improve.
Many believe that Buxton is a true five-tool player that will hit for power and maintain his speed throughout his career. Some compare Buxton to Mike Trout or Andrew McCutchen, with his fielding ability, strong arm, speed, and power potential that he possesses.
He also liked hitting away from Target Field, posting a .261 overage on the road last season compared to a .150 average at home. If there is a positive from the first 46 games of his career, it would be that he hit .189 in the first half of the games he played, and improved to .217 in the second half, showing a little sign of improvement during his first stint in Minnesota.
Buxton injured his thumb just 10 games into his MLB stint, which caused him to not return to the Twins lineup until August 20th. A thumb injury is one that can linger and cause problems beyond the return date. It’s unknown whether the thumb injury had an impact on Buxton in the next 36 games he played in 2015, but he will have no injury excuse coming into the 2016 season.
The 2016 season does not appear to have the rookie firepower that the 2015 season had, leaving the door open for Buxton to highlight the 2016 class of newcomers.