Buxton Not Alone In Early-Season Struggles
Dansby Swanson - 23 - SS - Atlanta Braves
2017 Stats*: .139/.162/.194 (.357) in 74 plate appearances over 18 games.
Swanson was the first overall draft pick in the 2015 draft out of Vanderbilt. Inexplicably, Dave Stewart decided to trade the Georgia native to Atlanta (with two others) for Shelby Miller. The Braves called him up late last year. He played in 38 big league games, he hit .302/.361/.442 (.803) in 145 plate appearances. He had 34 strikeouts, but he also walked 13 times.
Part of his struggles this season can be tied to his strikeout-to-walk rate. He has 19 strikeouts to go with just two walks.
He began the 2017 season as Atlanta’s second-place hitter. He stayed in that spot for the first 14 games. He then got a day off. At that point he was in a 3-33 slump which dropped his average to .131. When he returned to the lineup this past weekend, he had been moved to the eighth spot.
Swanson seems to be taking the struggles in stride. When he was given his one game off, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“When you’re going like this each at-bat is kind of a battle,” Swanson said. “I was just talking to some people about how, it’s like, they throw those perfect breaking balls on certain counts and they make certain pitches, and then when you do hit balls hard people seem to be standing right there and stuff. But you’ve got to do your best to not let that affect you — just because you’re not getting the result doesn’t mean you’re not doing the right thing.
“This game, it’s hard. It’s just a weird concept because you can execute everything perfectly and not be successful, whereas in football if you run a play perfectly you’re going to be successful, or in basketball if you shoot the perfect shot it’s going in. It’s just funny how, in this (sport), you can take the perfect swing and it doesn’t matter. Nothing’s really in your control except your immediate action.”
Tim Anderson - 24 - SS - Chicago White Sox
2017 Stats*: .179/.203/.254 (.457) in 69 plate appearances
Anderson was the White Sox first-round pick in 2013 out of Community College. He was called up in mid-June and played in 99 games. He hit .283/.306/.432 (.738).
Those that have watched the White Sox since his call up know what his issue can be. Throw him a breaking ball outside of the strike zone, and he’ll probably still swing at it. Last year, he saw just 3.7 pitches per plate appearance. This year, that number is down to just 3.3.
But the White Sox obviously see him as a future star and leader on the team. . This spring, they locked him up to a six year, $25 million contract. With a couple of option years, the value of the contract could exceed $51 million. So, he’s probably got some leeway. He began the season by batting second the first seven games, and then he moved up to the leadoff spot for three games. After a day off, he has hit second four times and led off twice. Through 16 games, Rich Renteria has chosen to keep Anderson near the top of the order.
Orlando Arcia - 22 - SS - Milwaukee Brewers
2017 Stats*: .210/.234/.306 (.541) in 64 plate appearances over the first 18 games
Arcia was signed out of Venezuela. He is the younger brother of former Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia. He is known for his premiere defense at shortstop, which may surprise those of us who watched Oswaldo out in the outfield in Target Field.
He was called up late last year and played in 55 games for the Brewers last year. He hit .219/.273/.358 (.631). The Brewers have him up primarily for his defense and are letting him grow into the offensive side of the game. That is shown, in part, by the fact that they have had him hitting eighth or even ninth in their lineup in each game he’s played.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"Development is not a straight line," Counsell said. "Failure is part of it. You don’t know for who and when, but you know that there’s going to be struggles, and you have to get through those times. That’s when most of the learning happens and the biggest adjustments are going to happen."
"Look, I don’t want to see guys struggle. It’s hard seeing guys struggle. But I know also a lot of good can come from the struggle, and that’s what I always remain hopeful about."
Jose Peraza - 22 - 2B/SS - Cincinnati Reds
2017 Stats*: .216/.256/.257 (.513) in 78 plate appearances over 18 games
Peraza actually made his MLB debut in 2015 when he played in seven games for the Dodgers before being involved in his second, three-team trade in his young career. It sent him to Cincinnati. In 2016, he hit .324/.352/.411 (.762) in 72 games and 256 plate appearances. He played around the infield, but mostly in the two middle spots.
This year, he is off to a slow start. However, in all 18 games he has played, he has hit first or second.
Chad Dotson from Redleg Nation doesn’t think that Peraza is in any danger of a demotion:
As far as I know, there has been no public discussion about either sending Peraza down or dropping him in the lineup. In my opinion, it is highly unlikely that Peraza will be demoted. He’s still just 22 years old, and current management has reason to be patient with the young guys at the heart of the rebuild.
This is a season for the Reds to see who they have and what they can do. Peraza will get a much longer leash than 3 weeks. (Plus, his defense has been good.)
Trevor Story - 24 - SS - Colorado Rockies
2017 Stats*: .169/.270/.415 (.686) in 74 plate appearances over 19 games
Story was the big story early last season. In his MLB debut last year, he hit two home runs. He had six home runs in his first four games. Unfortunately, his season ended after just 97 games due to injury, but he finished by hitting 21 doubles and 27 home runs. He hit .272/.341/.567 (.909).
So, it’s clear that he isn’t off to the same kind of start as he was last year. However, he has continued to show the home run power. Rockies fans are surprised when Story hits a single so far this year.
He started the season hitting fifth, and batted fourth or fifth each of the first seven games. Since then, he has hit primarily sixth, but also has three games where he’s batted seventh as well. So for now, he has been dropped a little in the lineup.
Carlos Correa - 23 - SS - Houston Astros
2017 Stats*: .197/.286/.295 (.581) with 70 plate appearances in 16 games.
Correa was the top pick in the 2012 MLB draft, one pick ahead of Byron Buxton. Correa was called up halfway through the 2015 season and hit 22 homers on his way to the AL Rookie of the Year. In 2016, he hit .274/.361/.451 (.811) with 36 doubles, 20 homers and 96 RBI.
2017 hasn’t started out real well for Correa. However, he has been the Astros cleanup hitter each game that he’s played this season, and that probably won’t change anytime soon.
So what have we noticed from reviewing the six players above? Maybe you’ll think through some more, but here are a few things I noticed.
- If you go on Twitter or read comments sections, there are two distinct groups of fans for each of these players. There are the ones who want a guy demoted (or even just given up on), and there are those that will support said player as long as it takes. Here’s a good example from Twitter regarding Dansby Swanson:
2.) Defense - you’ll notice that each of these players plays an up-the-middle position, and plays it well. While Buxton is the only outfielder, most of them are shortstops. Each is known for being a plus defender.
3.) Byron Buxton was the Twins #3 hitter on Opening Day. Having watched him play this spring, it was an aggressive, but understandable plan. Not because of any numbers he put up in spring training, but because of the quality of the at-bats that he was having. After struggling for five games, Paul Molitor moved him down the lineup and he’s primarily been batting ninth since. He’s been pinch-hit for three times and sat out a couple of games too. Swanson stayed in the second spot for 14 games before being moved down this weekend. Story has dropped from five to seven. But the rest have stayed in their spots.
4.) Online searching tells me that none of the other players are in any danger of being demoted, at least not in the near future.
5.) Patience is what is being preached. That’s not new. Player development is not linear. Not everyone develops at the same time. Sometimes being optioned helps. Sometimes a player needs to figure things out in the big leagues.
6.) Walk and strikeout rates are pretty consistently telling in seeing player struggles. I don’t think that surprises anyone. Players that have a better control of the strike zone have a tendency to avoid longer slumps, and they don’t get themselves out by swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.
Now, we don’t watch these other teams play as often as we watch the Twins. It’s also pretty certain from the stats and the strikeout rates that Buxton’s struggles have exceeded even those mentioned above. Personally, I would like to see the Twins continue to play Buxton most every day and let him try to work through this.
Finally, here is a list of the 27 players who entered Monday’s game with a sub-.200 batting average.
Jose Reyes - .104
Ryan Schimpf - .109
Jose Bautista - .132
Devon Travis - .136
Dansby Swanson - .139
Danny Valencia - .145
Curtis Granderson - .149
Travis Jankowski - .160
Mike Napoli - .162
Erick Aybar - .164
Trevor Story - .169
Alex Gordon - .169
Dexter Fowler - .169
Maikel Franco - .171
Scott Schebler - .175
Austin Hedges - .175
Tim Anderson - .179
Brett Gardner - .182
Jonathan Villar - .185
Rougned Odor - .187
Alcides Escobar - .190
Danny Espinosa - .191
Domingo Santana - .193
Adonis Garcia - .194
Justin Bour - .194
Carlos Gonzalez - .197
Carlos Correa - .197
It’s an interesting mix, isn’t it? There are young players and there are old players. There are some former All-Stars, and there are guys you had to look up to see what team they even play for.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions early in a season even though we all know it’s a very small sample. But with Buxton, the question that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have to be asking themselves is: What is best for Byron Buxton’s long-term future? Learn in the big leagues or learn in AAA Rochester. The problem is, there is no way to know which answer is more correct than the other. Share your thoughts.
- brvama, nytwinsfan, hybridbear and 4 others like this