Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Byron Buxton Superhero: But Who Is He?

June 14, 2015 a day that will forever go down as one of the most highly anticipated days in all of Minnesota Twins history. Byron Buxton, the Twins second overall pick, joined the big leagues to an exorbitant amount of fanfare. With only three Twins picks ever drafted higher (Tim Belcher, Johnny Ard, and Joe Mauer went first overall), Buxton was seen as the superhero the Twins needed. But what exactly are his superpowers?

Now having spent just over a week in the big leagues, there has been mixed results. As with most prospects, expecting otherwordly production out of the gate is silly. After all, a young player is joining a league full of the best players in the world, and they have not yet seen that kind of competition. Expecting immediate success isn't a fair judgement, and suggesting a trip back down to the farm (stop being silly people) would also be counter productive.

The fact of the matter is that for the first time since Joe Mauer, the Twins do have their superhero, but he needs to harness his powers.

From the get go, some of them are going to play immediately. Against the Chicago White Sox on Monday night, Buxton flashed his two most impressive assets. On a dying liner to center, White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera decided to try and score from second base. Buxton likely smirked and chuckled, and then he unleashed. The throw strayed no further than eight feet from the ground and was an absolute missile to the plate. Cabrera was dead in his tracks, and Buxton put the big leagues on notice. His right appendage is nothing short of a cannon.

Earlier in the same game, Buxton led off. It was the first time in his career that Byron would be given the opportunity, and manager Paul Molitor wanted him to ambush opposing pitcher John Danks. Buxton obliged at the plate and did just that. On a 2-0 fastball, Buxton went to right field with a looper than landed a few feet to the right of Avisail Garcia. Having already rounded first base by the time the ball hit the ground, Buxton galloped into second for a stand up double. A ball that was cut off before the gap, and had no business warranting extra bases, Buxton utilized unfairly. From somewhere in another galaxy, The Flash blushed at his competition.

Major League Baseball scouts attempt to quantify super powers into five distinct categories. Buxton has shown that he is the prototype when it comes to speed, fielding, and arm strength. It's in hitting, and power that Buxton may find his kryptonite.

A career .296/.380/.486 hitter through 263 minor league games, there's little doubt Buxton's bat will play at the highest level. However, it shouldn't be expected to do so right away. Over the course of his first 32 plate appearances, Buxton has worked a 3-1 count just twice, and a 2-1 count only five times. He's been ahead in the count just 38% of the time, and he's faced two-strike counts 53% of the time. For a guy working on brandishing an elevated hitting ability, he's fighting an uphill battle. Sometime in the not so distant future, he will hit but right now, that shouldn't be expected to be his game.

In the power department, Buxton is adept if nothing else. While not Thor like, the Twins phenom put up 27 home runs in those 263 minor league games. At a 16 HR/162 game pace, Buxton can eventually be counted upon to contribute in the slugging department as well. Just 21, the frame can still add muscle. While he'll never be the Hulk, Buxton no doubt should have the ability to banish a few baseballs in his time.

As a whole, the excitement and anticipation for the superhero known as Byron Buxton is absolutely warranted. It's time to stop talking about a possible trip back to the farm, and it would be best not to over manage the budding star. Know that a complete arsenal of weapons will come, but that currently only half of them should be expected to play. Allow Buxton to be what he is on the field and basepaths, and grow through the coming months.

Minnesota no doubt has a star on its hands, and while he may have the simplicity of The Flash now, showing a patiently observing approach could soon produce Captain America in the most desirable Twins form.

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