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Magic Number Thread

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:50 PM
Why no magic number thread?     Why can't I post pictures?      BYTO was fun.    
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Game Thread "Odysseus" Twins vs Royals 1:10pm cdt...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:49 PM
5 things to think about... 1. I got a friend who closed on a house earlier this week. So please forgive me if i have a one track mind. 2....
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Team of Destiny

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:49 PM
I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the signs are pointing to the Minnesota Twins heading to the World Series this year.The Twin...
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Okay, so let's poll the postseason

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:39 PM
Personally, I'd prefer to face the... I hate to say it... Yankees...   Yes, I know they're unbeatable. But they're not. They're basi...
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Front Page: Randy Dobnak Should Be the Twins Game 2 Starter

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:27 PM
I know what you are probably thinking “Whoa whoa whoa, hold on, if there is one thing that is set about the Minnesota Twins starting rota...
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Going to WAR with Byron Buxton and the Great Center Fielders of Twins Past

Byron Buxton is back! After missing time due to concussion-like symptoms the Minnesota Twins and their fan base are certainly glad to have Buxton on the field again. As Cody Christie recently pointed out, Buxton’s value to the Twins is no secret. He is undoubtedly one of the best defenders in the game and has made great strides with the bat as well. Buxton seems to be putting it all together and is still just 25 years old.
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
This naturally leads one to wonder just how great Buxton could become. Obviously, steering clear of injuries and staying off the IL will be crucial for Buxton to reach his ceiling. The injury-plagued disaster of 2018 may have caused some Twins fans to sour on Buxton, but he has bounced back strongly in 2019. The expectations for Buxton have always been sky high as he was the number one overall prospect in baseball and made his major league debut at the age of 21. If he does stay fairly healthy throughout his career he could easily become one of if not the best Twins center fielder of all-time.

It is obviously premature, but let’s take a look at how Buxton stacks up against three Twins greats (according to WAR) and how his future might project if he follows a similar trajectory.

According to Baseball Reference, the three Twins center fielders with the highest WAR in their Twins career are Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter, and Denard Span. Let’s take a closer look at their Twins careers and compare them with Buxton. For this exercise I am using Baseball Reference’s WAR.

Career with the Twins:
Attached Image: Buxton1.png

To no one’s surprise Kirby Puckett is the Twin’s leader in WAR by a large margin. Even though his career was cut short by injury, he also played the most games as a Twin of this group. For this reason, I calculated WAR per game and the results are fairly interesting. The fact that Denard Span leads this group is somewhat surprising. Span only played five seasons with the Twins and didn’t play the majority of his games in center field until his third season due to playing alongside Carlos Gomez, but he was a really good player for Minnesota. Also of interest is the fact that Buxton has the second highest single-season WAR total and it came at the age of 23! Buxton is having a similar season in 2019 and if he can come back healthy he has a chance to come close to that mark again.

Although Buxton’s career Twins WAR per game compares nicely to the greats and even bests Hunter (by a significant margin); it may be better to look at the players’ careers through age 25 to get a better idea of where Buxton fits in.

Though Age 25 Season:
Attached Image: Buxton2.png

Suddenly Buxton’s numbers are looking really good. He already leads the group in total WAR and is sure to accumulate more through the remainder of 2019. His 2017 season is also the best single season of the group and in WAR per game he now trails only Span (who started his career with a bang, putting up a 4.3 and 3.8 WAR in his first two seasons).

Span is a bit of an interesting case as his first two seasons were the best two year stretch of his career (his .390 OBP during that time made him an ideal lead-off hitter). Although Span was the 20th overall pick in the 2002 draft he really didn’t break out in the minors until his final year (2008) when he was repeating AAA (he was called up after 40 games). Span was a good prospect but he was never the elite prospect that Buxton was and Buxton certainly has a much higher ceiling. It’s possible that Span was overachieving in those first couple of seasons but his career serves as a precautionary tale for ominous reasons that we will come to later.

That fact that Buxton has put up better numbers than Puckett and Hunter up to this point in his career is certainly encouraging. Hunter is similar to Span in that he was the Twins 20th overall pick in 1993 and wasn’t overly impressive in the minors. Early in his major league career he was shuffled back and forth between the majors and minors, but he was called up for good after crushing AAA to the tune of a 1.130 OPS in 2000. Of the four players, Hunter certainly had the slowest start to his career with a .0136 WAR per game. Fortunately, things turned around for Hunter in his age 25 season as he put up a 4.7 WAR (his best as a Twin). Buxton has had his ups and downs but it is important to remember that Torii Hunter had much greater struggles early in his career.

Puckett was the third overall pick of the now-extinct January draft. Unlike the others, he played college ball and was 22 years of age when he began his minor league career. However, Puckett was a quick study and debuted with the Twins as a 24 year old. Puckett’s first two seasons with the Twins weren’t overly impressive as he hadn’t found his power stroke yet (His OPS+ was only 86 but he the little speedster did steal 35 bases in those first two years!). Of course, great things were to come.

Projecting how Buxton’s career with the Twins will end up is naturally highly speculative. We do know that Buxton is under team control for three more seasons, so let’s take a look at how the others stacked up for their age 26-28 seasons.

Age 26-28 Seasons:
Attached Image: Buxton3.png

I think this Puckett kid might be pretty good. In three seasons Puckett slashed .339/.369 /.539, good for a .908 OPS and a 142 OPS+. Puckett flexed some muscle as well as he was good for 83 dingers in those three years. Can we hope for the same with Buxton? Buxton reportedly hit the weights hard this off season, adding 21 pounds of muscle and currently holds a career high .490 slugging percentage, so he is trending in the right direction. Puckett helped the Twins win their first World Series in 1987 and followed that up with his finest season in 1988 with a 7.8 WAR.

Hunter built upon his breakout in 2001 and had three solid seasons from 2002-2004. He played in his first all-star game in 2002 (famously robbing Barry Bonds of a homerun) and put up a .859 OPS. Hunter greatly improved, but his WAR per game during this stretch was only .001 better than Buxton’s early career WAR as a younger player.

Span’s career got off to a much hotter start than the others, but he did come down to earth a bit in the next leg of his career. From 2010-2012, Span hit for just a .702 OPS with a 94 OPS+. His OBP dropped from .390 in his first two seasons to .334 for his next three, taking away some of his luster as a leadoff hitter. Most relevant to Buxton, Span suffered a severe concussion in 2011 and was only able to play in 70 games. This would not be the last concussion of Span’s career. He did come back with his best year of the three in 2012, when he slashed .283/.342/.395 for an OPS+ of 104, but once again he was hampered by injuries and played just 128 games.

Note that each player’s best season in this frame came in their age 28 season. This makes sense as a player should be coming into his prime at that age and will not yet have lost a step to the detriment of their defense. If the Twins are unable or unwilling to extend Buxton (they clearly upset Buxton by not calling his up in September last year), his age 28 season will be his final year of arbitration. It will be interesting to see how or if being in a contract year will affect Buxton.

This leaves us with the question of what Buxton’s potential final years with the Twin’s will be like. Since he is already performing at the level that Hunter and Span did during their age 26-28 seasons is it safe to assume that Buxton will be better?

Although it may be a fruitless exercise, let’s take a look at what Buxton’s numbers may look like if he has a similar rate of improvement (in Puckett and Hunter’s case) or regression (in Span’s case) as our “greats.”

First, let’s look at the player’s rate of change between the seasons up to age 25 and their age 26-28 seasons:
Attached Image: Buxton4.png

Now let’s project those “growth rates” to Buxton with some arbitrary amounts of games played.

Buxton Projections for Age 26-28 Seasons:
Attached Image: Buxton5.png

We can safely disregard the 162 games a year projections as Buxton will get days off even if he stays 100% healthy (we can dream right?). I think averaging somewhere around the 140 mark is possible for Buxton. With the exclusion of last season Buxton has played in around 140 games a year when you factor in both his minor and major league games thus far (since his MLB debut season). If Buxton stays healthy for the remainder of the season he will come close to that mark again.

If Buxton improves at a Puckett or Hunter-like rate and plays in the neighborhood of 140 games a year we are looking at a 6 WAR a year player. As we’ve seen, Buxton has already had a 5 WAR season in 2017 and is on a similar pace this year. It seems within reason that a mostly healthy Buxton could challenge the 17.7 WAR that Puckett put up in his ’86-’88 seasons. This would also edge him ahead of Hunter on the Twin’s career WAR list.

As crazy as it sounds, over the next three seasons, Buxton could be even better than Puckett. He is far and away the best defensive center fielder of the group and his defense is unlikely to significantly decline over the next three years. Buxton certainly has the potential to become a better offensive player, and if he does he will be an MVP-caliber player.

Now let’s get really speculative and look at what Buxton’s career could look like. First, let’s take a look at the career totals of all four players.

MLB Career:
Attached Image: Buxton6.png

Obviously, Puckett and Hunter went on to have great careers. Hunter was able to remain a good player for a long time. He played 19 seasons and was an all-star as recently as 2013. Puckett’s career was cut short by a career ending injury at age 35, but he managed to lead the Twins to two World Series victories, is a MLB hall of famer, and is undoubtedly the best a Twins center fielder of all time. He will always be fondly remembered by Twins fans for his heroics in the ’91 World Series and his legendary status is firmly implanted in Twins history.

Span’s career is another story. He certainly had a respectable career and some good years after being traded to Washington (for the recently retired Alex Meyer) after five seasons with the Twins. However, his best years were early in his career with the Twins and injuries took their toll on Span. Span suffered another concussion in 2014 and battled some other injuries throughout his career, reducing both his time and the field and presumably his effectiveness as a player. His career WAR per game is still in the same neighborhood as Hunter’s but he was unable to accumulate as many games and the course of Span’s career went in the opposite direction of Hunter’s.

Injuries are a serious concern for Buxton as well. In his AA debut back in August of 2014, Buxton collided with another outfielder leaving him unconscious on the outfield grass for ten minutes and ending his season. Buxton is returning from another IL stint with “concussion like symptoms” after hitting his head on the turf while making a great diving catch. Buxton has also had his share of less career-threatening injuries including thumb, wrist, toe, and migraines (along with numerous scrapes and bruises due to collisions with the wall).

Buxton’s aggressive all-out effort on defense is a big part of what makes him so great. However, if Buxton is to stay on the field he may need to dial it back a bit. Manager Rocky Baldelli could be instrumental in keeping Buxton healthy. As a former center fielder that had his own career cut short by injury, Baldelli should take great care with Buxton. Baldelli has prioritized giving his players regular rest and the Twins have been extra cautious in making sure injured players are healthy before sending them back onto the field. With innovative player management and a little luck hopefully Buxton will be able to stay relatively healthy throughout his MLB career.

Without further ado, I give you Buxton’s career projections.
Attached Image: Buxton7.png

Buxton is unlikely to reach the number of games played that Hunter did and also is unlikely to improve at Hunter’s rate (because of Hunter’s much slower start), so 90 career WAR seems overly optimistic at a minimum and possibly ludicrous. Improving at the Puckett rate definitely seems like the best case scenario for Buxton (though he could conceivably play in 1,500 more games, it will require good overall health) and would make him a potential Hall of Famer with over 60 WAR. Regressing at the rate that Span did also seems highly unlikely. For Buxton to accumulate only 13 more WAR for his career would be a massive disappointment, to say the least (injuries would have to take a heavy toll).

As a final step, let’s combine these projections and see what we get.

Composite Buxton:
Attached Image: Buxton8.png

There you have it. Buxton is able to finish his career playing at a Puckett-like WAR per game level and slightly edges out Puckett in games played, giving him the highest career WAR of the group. This seems possible as speedy players and/or elite defenders tend to accumulate a lot of WAR (some examples: Kenny Lofton 68.3, Ricky Henderson 111.2!, Tim Raines 69.4) Needless to say a lot would have to go right for Buxton to reach these levels. Continued improvement, good year-to-year health, and overall longevity will be paramount to Buxton reaching these projections. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!

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10 Comments

Interesting and outstanding, if a bit speculative.

Of course, projection or not, kind of bard to compare anyone to Puckett at this point, and for obvious reasons.

Despite not being a GREAT player, it helps remind how good of a player Span was, especially with the Twins.

I have often referenced Hunter and Buxton in various threads. Hunter didn't have the media blitz or fanfare in his day, but their paths are eerily similar. Hunter didn't exactly explode on the scene, and got sent down a couple of times before figuring it out for good.

We can debate how Buxton was handled last season, but in retrospect, doesn't it appear things were done right?

I am so frustrated with lack of perspective and patience in regard to Byron. Two years ago, Rosario was a wild card who might never reach his potential. I argued patience and stated if I were a team wanting to trade with the Twins, he would be my #1 target. This past off season, Kepler was a 4th OF in many people's mind and Polanco was a decent to good hitter who couldn't play ML SS.

Polanco, deservedly so, was the starting SS in the All Star game and Kepler should have been there. Then Sano should be traded for a hope and a prayer because he would obviously never amount to anything. And suddenly, right before our eyes, all the potential and talent we saw in Sano is starting to come to fruition.

All this incredible angst about, mostly, 25yo players not being the next so and so.

And this brings us back to Buxton. So he wasn't the immediate Mays, Griffey Jr. So What?

Has anyone really spent the time to look beyond his rankings and milb numbers to see how quickly he was promoted despite games missed due to various injures?

And here we are now, healthy, bulked up, determined, more experienced, Twins staff even taking steps to play deeper to avoid certain potential injury, seeing what be may yet become. And he is having a borderline breakthrough season. I say borderline because the best is yet to come.

Patience, as I have often said, can be an ugly word. But we are just beginning to see what he can become, like his fellow young teammates.
    • mikelink45, rdehring, Dr. Beanpole and 2 others like this
Photo
Patrick Wozniak
Jul 26 2019 03:23 AM

Thanks, Doc!I really agree with you on the patience aspect.I feel like with the big league team struggling for so many years a lot of us focused in on the minors and grew huge expectations for the players you mentioned, expecting immediate stardom.Baseball is a really hard game and there's only one Mike Trout.Now the young guys are really starting to hit their groove.These next few years should be really fun!

    • Oldgoat_MN and DocBauer like this

I don't think I'm going out on a limb here, but I believe that Yankee series would have turned out a little differently with Bux in the lineup all 3 games.

    • Oldgoat_MN and Patrick Wozniak like this

 

Interesting and outstanding, if a bit speculative.

Of course, projection or not, kind of bard to compare anyone to Puckett at this point, and for obvious reasons.

Despite not being a GREAT player, it helps remind how good of a player Span was, especially with the Twins.

I have often referenced Hunter and Buxton in various threads. Hunter didn't have the media blitz or fanfare in his day, but their paths are eerily similar. Hunter didn't exactly explode on the scene, and got sent down a couple of times before figuring it out for good.

We can debate how Buxton was handled last season, but in retrospect, doesn't it appear things were done right?

I am so frustrated with lack of perspective and patience in regard to Byron. Two years ago, Rosario was a wild card who might never reach his potential. I argued patience and stated if I were a team wanting to trade with the Twins, he would be my #1 target. This past off season, Kepler was a 4th OF in many people's mind and Polanco was a decent to good hitter who couldn't play ML SS.

Polanco, deservedly so, was the starting SS in the All Star game and Kepler should have been there. Then Sano should be traded for a hope and a prayer because he would obviously never amount to anything. And suddenly, right before our eyes, all the potential and talent we saw in Sano is starting to come to fruition.

All this incredible angst about, mostly, 25yo players not being the next so and so.

And this brings us back to Buxton. So he wasn't the immediate Mays, Griffey Jr. So What?

Has anyone really spent the time to look beyond his rankings and milb numbers to see how quickly he was promoted despite games missed due to various injures?

And here we are now, healthy, bulked up, determined, more experienced, Twins staff even taking steps to play deeper to avoid certain potential injury, seeing what be may yet become. And he is having a borderline breakthrough season. I say borderline because the best is yet to come.

Patience, as I have often said, can be an ugly word. But we are just beginning to see what he can become, like his fellow young teammates.

Thanks, Doc.One of the best posts I have read on this or any other site.

    • DocBauer likes this
Photo
puckstopper1
Jul 26 2019 06:30 AM

 

Byron Buxton is back! After missing time due to concussion-like symptoms the Minnesota Twins and their fan base are certainly glad to have Buxton on the field again. As Cody Christie recently pointed out, Buxton’s value to the Twins is no secret. He is undoubtedly one of the best defenders in the game and has made great strides with the bat as well. Buxton seems to be putting it all together and is still just 25 years old.This naturally leads one to wonder just how great Buxton could become. Obviously, steering clear of injuries and staying off the IL will be crucial for Buxton to reach his ceiling. The injury-plagued disaster of 2018 may have caused some Twins fans to sour on Buxton, but he has bounced back strongly in 2019. The expectations for Buxton have always been sky high as he was the number one overall prospect in baseball and made his major league debut at the age of 21. If he does stay fairly healthy throughout his career he could easily become one of if not the best Twins center fielder of all-time.

It is obviously premature, but let’s take a look at how Buxton stacks up against three Twins greats (according to WAR) and how his future might project if he follows a similar trajectory.

According to Baseball Reference, the three Twins center fielders with the highest WAR in their Twins career are Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter, and Denard Span. Let’s take a closer look at their Twins careers and compare them with Buxton. For this exercise I am using Baseball Reference’s WAR.

Career with the Twins:
Download attachment: Buxton1.png

To no one’s surprise Kirby Puckett is the Twin’s leader in WAR by a large margin. Even though his career was cut short by injury, he also played the most games as a Twin of this group. For this reason, I calculated WAR per game and the results are fairly interesting. The fact that Denard Span leads this group is somewhat surprising. Span only played five seasons with the Twins and didn’t play the majority of his games in center field until his third season due to playing alongside Carlos Gomez, but he was a really good player for Minnesota. Also of interest is the fact that Buxton has the second highest single-season WAR total and it came at the age of 23! Buxton is having a similar season in 2019 and if he can come back healthy he has a chance to come close to that mark again.

Although Buxton’s career Twins WAR per game compares nicely to the greats and even bests Hunter (by a significant margin); it may be better to look at the players’ careers through age 25 to get a better idea of where Buxton fits in.

Though Age 25 Season:
Download attachment: Buxton2.png

Suddenly Buxton’s numbers are looking really good. He already leads the group in total WAR and is sure to accumulate more through the remainder of 2019. His 2017 season is also the best single season of the group and in WAR per game he now trails only Span (who started his career with a bang, putting up a 4.3 and 3.8 WAR in his first two seasons).

Span is a bit of an interesting case as his first two seasons were the best two year stretch of his career (his .390 OBP during that time made him an ideal lead-off hitter). Although Span was the 20th overall pick in the 2002 draft he really didn’t break out in the minors until his final year (2008) when he was repeating AAA (he was called up after 40 games). Span was a good prospect but he was never the elite prospect that Buxton was and Buxton certainly has a much higher ceiling. It’s possible that Span was overachieving in those first couple of seasons but his career serves as a precautionary tale for ominous reasons that we will come to later.

That fact that Buxton has put up better numbers than Puckett and Hunter up to this point in his career is certainly encouraging. Hunter is similar to Span in that he was the Twins 20th overall pick in 1993 and wasn’t overly impressive in the minors. Early in his major league career he was shuffled back and forth between the majors and minors, but he was called up for good after crushing AAA to the tune of a 1.130 OPS in 2000. Of the four players, Hunter certainly had the slowest start to his career with a .0136 WAR per game. Fortunately, things turned around for Hunter in his age 25 season as he put up a 4.7 WAR (his best as a Twin). Buxton has had his ups and downs but it is important to remember that Torii Hunter had much greater struggles early in his career.

Puckett was the third overall pick of the now-extinct January draft. Unlike the others, he played college ball and was 22 years of age when he began his minor league career. However, Puckett was a quick study and debuted with the Twins as a 24 year old. Puckett’s first two seasons with the Twins weren’t overly impressive as he hadn’t found his power stroke yet (His OPS+ was only 86 but he the little speedster did steal 35 bases in those first two years!). Of course, great things were to come.

Projecting how Buxton’s career with the Twins will end up is naturally highly speculative. We do know that Buxton is under team control for three more seasons, so let’s take a look at how the others stacked up for their age 26-28 seasons.

Age 26-28 Seasons:
Download attachment: Buxton3.png

I think this Puckett kid might be pretty good. In three seasons Puckett slashed .339/.369 /.539, good for a .908 OPS and a 142 OPS+. Puckett flexed some muscle as well as he was good for 83 dingers in those three years. Can we hope for the same with Buxton? Buxton reportedly hit the weights hard this off season, adding 21 pounds of muscle and currently holds a career high .490 slugging percentage, so he is trending in the right direction. Puckett helped the Twins win their first World Series in 1987 and followed that up with his finest season in 1988 with a 7.8 WAR.

Hunter built upon his breakout in 2001 and had three solid seasons from 2002-2004. He played in his first all-star game in 2002 (famously robbing Barry Bonds of a homerun) and put up a .859 OPS. Hunter greatly improved, but his WAR per game during this stretch was only .001 better than Buxton’s early career WAR as a younger player.

Span’s career got off to a much hotter start than the others, but he did come down to earth a bit in the next leg of his career. From 2010-2012, Span hit for just a .702 OPS with a 94 OPS+. His OBP dropped from .390 in his first two seasons to .334 for his next three, taking away some of his luster as a leadoff hitter. Most relevant to Buxton, Span suffered a severe concussion in 2011 and was only able to play in 70 games. This would not be the last concussion of Span’s career. He did come back with his best year of the three in 2012, when he slashed .283/.342/.395 for an OPS+ of 104, but once again he was hampered by injuries and played just 128 games.

Note that each player’s best season in this frame came in their age 28 season. This makes sense as a player should be coming into his prime at that age and will not yet have lost a step to the detriment of their defense. If the Twins are unable or unwilling to extend Buxton (they clearly upset Buxton by not calling his up in September last year), his age 28 season will be his final year of arbitration. It will be interesting to see how or if being in a contract year will affect Buxton.

This leaves us with the question of what Buxton’s potential final years with the Twin’s will be like. Since he is already performing at the level that Hunter and Span did during their age 26-28 seasons is it safe to assume that Buxton will be better?

Although it may be a fruitless exercise, let’s take a look at what Buxton’s numbers may look like if he has a similar rate of improvement (in Puckett and Hunter’s case) or regression (in Span’s case) as our “greats.”

First, let’s look at the player’s rate of change between the seasons up to age 25 and their age 26-28 seasons:
Download attachment: Buxton4.png

Now let’s project those “growth rates” to Buxton with some arbitrary amounts of games played.

Buxton Projections for Age 26-28 Seasons:
Download attachment: Buxton5.png

We can safely disregard the 162 games a year projections as Buxton will get days off even if he stays 100% healthy (we can dream right?). I think averaging somewhere around the 140 mark is possible for Buxton. With the exclusion of last season Buxton has played in around 140 games a year when you factor in both his minor and major league games thus far (since his MLB debut season). If Buxton stays healthy for the remainder of the season he will come close to that mark again.

If Buxton improves at a Puckett or Hunter-like rate and plays in the neighborhood of 140 games a year we are looking at a 6 WAR a year player. As we’ve seen, Buxton has already had a 5 WAR season in 2017 and is on a similar pace this year. It seems within reason that a mostly healthy Buxton could challenge the 17.7 WAR that Puckett put up in his ’86-’88 seasons. This would also edge him ahead of Hunter on the Twin’s career WAR list.

As crazy as it sounds, over the next three seasons, Buxton could be even better than Puckett. He is far and away the best defensive center fielder of the group and his defense is unlikely to significantly decline over the next three years. Buxton certainly has the potential to become a better offensive player, and if he does he will be an MVP-caliber player.

Now let’s get really speculative and look at what Buxton’s career could look like. First, let’s take a look at the career totals of all four players.

MLB Career:
Download attachment: Buxton6.png

Obviously, Puckett and Hunter went on to have great careers. Hunter was able to remain a good player for a long time. He played 19 seasons and was an all-star as recently as 2013. Puckett’s career was cut short by a career ending injury at age 35, but he managed to lead the Twins to two World Series victories, is a MLB hall of famer, and is undoubtedly the best a Twins center fielder of all time. He will always be fondly remembered by Twins fans for his heroics in the ’91 World Series and his legendary status is firmly implanted in Twins history.

Span’s career is another story. He certainly had a respectable career and some good years after being traded to Washington (for the recently retired Alex Meyer) after five seasons with the Twins. However, his best years were early in his career with the Twins and injuries took their toll on Span. Span suffered another concussion in 2014 and battled some other injuries throughout his career, reducing both his time and the field and presumably his effectiveness as a player. His career WAR per game is still in the same neighborhood as Hunter’s but he was unable to accumulate as many games and the course of Span’s career went in the opposite direction of Hunter’s.

Injuries are a serious concern for Buxton as well. In his AA debut back in August of 2014, Buxton collided with another outfielder leaving him unconscious on the outfield grass for ten minutes and ending his season. Buxton is returning from another IL stint with “concussion like symptoms” after hitting his head on the turf while making a great diving catch. Buxton has also had his share of less career-threatening injuries including thumb, wrist, toe, and migraines (along with numerous scrapes and bruises due to collisions with the wall).

Buxton’s aggressive all-out effort on defense is a big part of what makes him so great. However, if Buxton is to stay on the field he may need to dial it back a bit. Manager Rocky Baldelli could be instrumental in keeping Buxton healthy. As a former center fielder that had his own career cut short by injury, Baldelli should take great care with Buxton. Baldelli has prioritized giving his players regular rest and the Twins have been extra cautious in making sure injured players are healthy before sending them back onto the field. With innovative player management and a little luck hopefully Buxton will be able to stay relatively healthy throughout his MLB career.

Without further ado, I give you Buxton’s career projections.
Download attachment: Buxton7.png

Buxton is unlikely to reach the number of games played that Hunter did and also is unlikely to improve at Hunter’s rate (because of Hunter’s much slower start), so 90 career WAR seems overly optimistic at a minimum and possibly ludicrous. Improving at the Puckett rate definitely seems like the best case scenario for Buxton (though he could conceivably play in 1,500 more games, it will require good overall health) and would make him a potential Hall of Famer with over 60 WAR. Regressing at the rate that Span did also seems highly unlikely. For Buxton to accumulate only 13 more WAR for his career would be a massive disappointment, to say the least (injuries would have to take a heavy toll).

As a final step, let’s combine these projections and see what we get.

Composite Buxton:
Download attachment: Buxton8.png

There you have it. Buxton is able to finish his career playing at a Puckett-like WAR per game level and slightly edges out Puckett in games played, giving him the highest career WAR of the group. This seems possible as speedy players and/or elite defenders tend to accumulate a lot of WAR (some examples: Kenny Lofton 68.3, Ricky Henderson 111.2!, Tim Raines 69.4) Needless to say a lot would have to go right for Buxton to reach these levels. Continued improvement, good year-to-year health, and overall longevity will be paramount to Buxton reaching these projections. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!

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Great detail, Patrick.Thanks for putting this together.

 

I'd be shocked if a poster or two doesn't ask you to add Aaron Hicks to this as a comparison to further rehash a long-ago horrible trade... ;)

    • Patrick Wozniak likes this

Really hard to believe Span wasn't picked up by anyone this year. Batted .272 last year an for most of the 1st half this year no outfielder for Cleveland had an average over .210. Shane Mack played 180 games in center.  

You have to look at centerfielders as you do at catchers over the long haul. How long will they play center as hard as they do, and what do they bring to the table when they transition to a corner spot in the outfield, being replaced by the next good centerfielder. Like catchers, who control the game but basically are regulated to around 120-games max behind the plate, at some point they do cycle out-of-the-game or to a position like, say, first base...and how do their stats at bat translate to other options.

 

Combined wth the fact that a centerfielder IS at their best in their youthful full-speed years, depending on development of play, you either bring them up to early and maybe they struggle, or too late and, again, they have to look over their shoulder at the next BIG prospect. 

 

The Twins have four BIG decisions. How much to pay Berrios to keep him in a Twins uniform. How much to pay Eddie Rosario, or do you trade him while he is so hot. Can you live with Buxton and what he brings currently to the game, and will he vastly improve, or stay at a level of, say, Aaron Hicks now playing in New York. Is the Buxton future similar to Denard Span, or closer to Torii Hunter. And what to do about Sano? All or nothing. There are always strikeouts in a game, But can you live with that one big hit every other game (you can, if you bury him in the batting order). As a third baseman Sano is bringing you something more to the plate, as long as he can field. But if you move him to first base are you better served by, say, a Cron...or even a Mauer...as the price ffor Sano expands.

 

The evils of baseball. How much money do you gamble today (like Polanco and Kepler, both contracts look great now). Or do you continue to overpay in arbitration and suffer if they have a breakout season.

 

It's difficult to compare Buxton to Puckett or Hunter because Buxton's WAR is much more reliant on his defense.

 

Though Buxton's hitting tool is coming along this year, it's still just in the neighborhood of what Span's was. Span's WAR dropped off when his defense dropped off.

 

To beat a dead horse, the Twins could have and should have kept Span until he was a free agent at age 31. I don't know why any team would trade a good defender and competent hitter at age 28.

 

Regarding Buxton's track, let's see if his hitting tool continues to develop as it has been quite slow in coming along. As thing stand today, I would say your career projection is way too high. His batting average is 80 points lower than Puckett's but you have him surpassing Puckett in WAR. Buxton's defense won't remain elite for his entire career. He is one knee, back, or neck injury away from being an average defender, at worst, and he's 4-6 years away from being average in the field at best.

    • jkcarew likes this

 

You have to look at centerfielders as you do at catchers over the long haul. How long will they play center as hard as they do, and what do they bring to the table when they transition to a corner spot in the outfield, being replaced by the next good centerfielder. Like catchers, who control the game but basically are regulated to around 120-games max behind the plate, at some point they do cycle out-of-the-game or to a position like, say, first base...and how do their stats at bat translate to other options.

 

Combined wth the fact that a centerfielder IS at their best in their youthful full-speed years, depending on development of play, you either bring them up to early and maybe they struggle, or too late and, again, they have to look over their shoulder at the next BIG prospect. 

 

The Twins have four BIG decisions. How much to pay Berrios to keep him in a Twins uniform. How much to pay Eddie Rosario, or do you trade him while he is so hot. Can you live with Buxton and what he brings currently to the game, and will he vastly improve, or stay at a level of, say, Aaron Hicks now playing in New York. Is the Buxton future similar to Denard Span, or closer to Torii Hunter. And what to do about Sano? All or nothing. There are always strikeouts in a game, But can you live with that one big hit every other game (you can, if you bury him in the batting order). As a third baseman Sano is bringing you something more to the plate, as long as he can field. But if you move him to first base are you better served by, say, a Cron...or even a Mauer...as the price ffor Sano expands.

 

The evils of baseball. How much money do you gamble today (like Polanco and Kepler, both contracts look great now). Or do you continue to overpay in arbitration and suffer if they have a breakout season.

My gut feeling is that Rosario is the odd man out. :(

Defensive contribution to WAR is inflated for players that play center-field (see Max Kepler). It's much harder to have defense contributing significantly to WAR once moved to the corner...assuming your bat warrants even playing in the corner. He needs to keep moving the bar in the positive direction with the bat.

 

Having said that, even at this current/2019 level (not yet 26) he's very good...and from this point forward, the primary challenge might simply be...WAR/G is only truly valuable when you play games. He's got to be in the lineup consistently...eventually...somehow.


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