Monday, August 8, 2016

Buxton Remains Twins Biggest Hurdle For New GM

Over the weekend, Byron Buxton was demoted back to Triple-A. With Trevor Plouffe returning from the disabled list, Paul Molitor needed a roster spot for the veteran. Miguel Sano wasn't going to go back to the farm without a fight, and Kennys Vargas has put up decent numbers in his latest stint with Minnesota. That left the top prospect the odd man out, and now things are starting to get real for Buxton and the Twins.

It's been just over a year since Byron Buxton made his major league debut. In that timeframe, he'll now be experiencing his third demotion back to Triple-A. Over 46 games a season ago, Buxton batted .209/.250/.326 at the MLB level. He's recorded 63 big league games this season and has slashed .193/.247/.315 across that time span. There's some reason for hope, but there also has to be significantly heightened results at some point soon as well.

Here's what Buxton progression has looked like in his big league time thus far:

  • 6/14/15-6/24/15 .189/.231/.270 15/2 K/BB 38% K/PA
  • 8/20/15-10/4/15 .217/.258/.348 29/4 K/BB 29% K/PA
  • 4/4/16-4/24/16 .156/.208/.289 24/2 K/BB 49% K/PA
  • 5/31/16-8/5/16 .204/.257/.322 56/11 K/BB 33% K/PA
It's hard to call any period of time that Buxton has spent with the Twins a success at this point. He was baseball's consensus top prospect and has failed to live up to the hype offensively for any period of time. That being said, his final stretch with the Twins of late had to have provided the brightest ray of hope.

Looking back at the production the Buxton has put forth, the greatest change in his recent stop was the ability to strike out significantly less than what he did to start 2016. However, for a speed guy and contact hitter, fanning in one-third of his plate appearances is far from ideal. He's been caught off balance far too often, and is generally fooled by offspeed pitches. At the Triple-A level, Buxton hasn't struggled with those areas, but hasn't yet made the transition either.

Right now, it's tough to feel good about Buxton going back to Rochester yet again. He's got all of the tools to succeed but hasn't been able to put it together. When at Triple-A however, he looks like a superstar and is well above the level. His focus on the farm absolutely needs to be recognizing pitches, and commanding a stronger presence in the batter's box. With a 14.2% swinging strike rate thus far in his career, upping the paltry 69.3% career contact rate needs to be his goal when he returns to the Twins.

There have been suggestions that part of Buxton's struggles have been due, in part, to those he is being taught by. Keith Law has mentioned multiple times that Paul Molitor and the current staff likely isn't the best group for developing some of the Twins young stars. In finding and hiring a new GM, unlocking Buxton's ceiling needs to become priority number one for the decided upon candidate.

I would have liked to see Buxton continue to struggle through his issues at the major league level the rest of the way. He's very clearly got a firm grasp on what the level below has to offer. That said, if it is Molitor and Brunansky that aren't getting through to him, maybe more time spent out of their hands is what Buxton may benefit from.

At the end of the day, Byron Buxton is a 22 year old uber prospect that has every ability to succeed within his grasp. It's far from time to panic, but the hope has to be that he puts it all together sooner rather than later. Should the Twins turn the corner as a franchise, it will be on the backs of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.

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