Thursday, May 26, 2016

Is Buxton Ready To Go?

Baseball and the Minnesota Twins, have watched as the number one prospect has scuffled in his first few tastes of the big leagues. Byron Buxton has just 63 major league games under his belt, but they've gone anything but according to plan. Following his latest Triple-A stint though, is a corner about to be turned?

Having won the starting centerfield job out of the gate, Byron Buxton was given the reigns for the Twins. He played a strong centerfield as was expected, but turned in a dismal .156/.208/.289 slash line through 17 games. His 24/2 strikeout to walk ratio was among the worst on the club, and he was struggling to get anything going.

For the mega-prospect, the problem was really just getting that bat to the ball. He owned a 26.3% line drive rate, and was putting the ball on the ground an equal 26.3% of the time through his first 17 games. With the amount of speed at his disposal, that's truly a decent recipe for success. Unlike teammates such as Eddie Rosario, Buxton wasn't chasing bad pitches either. His 28.6% O-Swing suggested he had a fairly decent grasp on the zone. The problem was, actually getting to those pitches he knew to swing at.

Prior to his demotion, Buxton totaled a 13.9% swinging strike percentage, while making contact on just 68.5% of his swings. If he was a big time power guy, those numbers would be far from terrible. The reality is however, that's not his game, and eventually led to his downfall.

Fast forward to where we are now, and Buxton has made adjustments that have him looking like a different hitter. Having incorporated a leg kick at Triple-A Rochester, his timing looks to be much smoother. Through 24 games, he's slashing .333/.394/.576. His average in the month of May is north of .380, and his last 10 games have seen him hit nearly .500. Buxton's new timing mechanism has aided him to the tune of 6 homers in his last 17 games, and he's found extra gap power as well. The transformation that has taken place is Buxton fulfilling the expectations that were laid out for him.

While the offensive numbers are all exciting, it's the adjustment to his strikeouts that create the most reason for promise. Having struck out in 49% of his MLB plate appearances in 2016, he's lowered that percentage to just 22% at Triple-A. He's taking more walks, and Buxton noted that one of his adjustments has been to stop swinging at pitches he doesn't believe he can do anything with.

Considering the outfield that the Twins currently employ, Buxton's emergence is pushing for a role back at the top. Miguel Sano is entrenched in RF, but the LF and CF spots are far from locked down. Danny Santana has been in over his head as a starter in center, and he figures in best when used as a super utility option. Getting Buxton back up to man the middle, while letting the other pieces fall where they may, is in the Twins best interest.

The Georgia native hasn't been on the farm too terribly long, but it would appear he's made significant strides and figured something out. A return to the Twins as they come back home to play the Rays on June 2nd would seem to make a lot of sense. Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor want to see this version of Byron Buxton helping the Twins, and it sure seems like he's got the right approach to make that happen.

It's a rare occasion when a guy comes up and gets it right away. Sometimes the process is a bit slower of a transition than you would hope. In reality though, Buxton is a 22 year old future superstar, and it may very well be that the third time is the charm.