Twins Daily Roundtable: Floundered
Image courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY SportsNick Nelson
Sadly it is a pretty long list, but to me the clear answer is Byron Buxton. It doesn't all fall on his shoulders – injuries, bad luck and questionable decision-making from the front office have played their parts – but however you want to apportion the blame, Buxton's season has been a massive letdown.
At age 24, and coming off a breakthrough second half that earned him down-ballot MVP votes, Buxton had the looks of a centerpiece. His ceiling was sky-high and the floor seemed to have risen as the rawness dissipated. I think we'd have all been happy with him reproducing the 3.5 WAR he produced in a 2017 campaign marred by prolonged early slumping.
Instead, Buxton has delivered -0.4 WAR through the Twins' first 94 games this year. When not on the disabled list or in the minors, he has been a sub-replacement level player, and that's just not something I would've ever imagined. Most alarming: As he continues to whiff at a 30% rate in Triple-A, and now faces another injury-related absence, it's getting harder and harder to see him making any real impact for the Twins in 2018.
I feel like this is a bit of a trick question. Since the specific wording is "underperformed" I'm going to leave out the guys like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco who just haven't been on the field much. Oh, and toss Ervin Santana and Jason Castro in there ... dang there are a lot of guys who haven't been able to contribute.
The free agent addition trio of Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn and Addison Reed immediately stand out as underperformers. Man, even two of those guys are on the shelf right now.
Lynn has been pretty frustrating, but he's been pitching better as a whole after a dreadful start. I think there's hope of Lynn at least being a league-average starter from here forward (make sure to blast this out to the other 29 teams in baseball. Wink, wink.)
With both Morrison and Reed I have some real concerns they're never going to be assets again. Morrison has been hitting the ball hard and his strikeout rate is down, but the shift is killing him. It feels like the league has figured out how to pitch to him/position against him. Maybe he makes a counter adjustment, but I'm not super optimistic. He also adds no value in the field or on the bases and plays the position that's easiest to replace.
No pitcher is going to deal well declining velocity, but a two-pitch guy who loves to pound the zone like Reed is really going to slip. Hopefully he'll rest up, come back refreshed and find those extra couple mph he's been missing, but the fear is that arm has just seen too much wear and tear. He’s been remarkably durable for today's standards, but nobody's immune to aging. Well, except for Fernando Rodney, of course.
Final answer: Morrison.
There were a trio of players that came to mind when I came-up with this questions. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Logan Morrison have all underperformed but I went into the season with higher expectations for the first two players on the list. Sano and Buxton were supposed to be the heart and soul of the Minnesota Twins for the next decade. Right now, it’s hard to imagine either of them playing in meaningful games at the big league level in 2018.
Sano looked utterly lost at the plate this season and he is down in Fort Myers trying to reset his professional career. Buxton has fought through injuries but he has struggled when he has been on the field at the big league level and at Triple-A.
Entering the season, I expected Buxton to take the next step especially after the way he played in the second-half of 2017. He has taken multiple steps in the wrong direction and that’s why he is the player who has most underperformed.
There have been many Twins players who have underperformed during the first half, and one would assume that at least one or two of these guys would bounce back and have a big second half. For me I’m looking at Logan Morrison.
While we knew going in that it was unlikely Morrison would repeat his success from 2017, it wasn’t exactly like Morrison was a slouch before then either. While his first half numbers haven’t looked all that appealing at .192/.289/.357 with 10 home runs, Morrison has the potential to find his home run stroke and breakout at any second.
Logan Morrison’s peripheral numbers also support the case that he will have an improved second half. The first glaring number that sticks out to me is his .212 BABIP. While Morrison is the ideal candidate to have a lower BABIP than most given how often he is shifted against and his lack of speed, but at .212, he is still well below his .268 career average.
The Statcast metrics also support the case that Morrison has been hitting the ball better than his results show. Here are what a few of Logan Morrison’s actual stats look like compared to his expected stats via Statcast.
Those are all really big gaps that suggest that Logan Morrison has been hitting the ball much better than his results show.
Talk about a question that has an endless list of possible responses!
Byron Buxton? Miguel Sano? Ervin Santana? I mean… one of those guys hasn’t played a game so far and the other two arguable hurt the team by playing in the games they DID show up for.
If I have to choose just one, I’ll go with Sano.
Santana was supposed to be ready to go by May or June, at the latest. It’s almost August and we haven’t seen him anywhere near Target Field.
Buxton couldn’t hit his weight in 28 games with the Twins and hasn’t hit a whole lot better in Rochester since supposedly becoming healthy after injuring a toe.
Sano didn’t hit his weight either… though, to be fair, his weight has ballooned to the point where not a lot of MLB players CAN hit at that level. He’s hitting .328 at High-A Ft. Myers so I guess at least he’s hitting his weight at that level… probably.
But Sano has hit just 2 home runs in 64 at-bats at Ft. Myers and let’s face it, hitting for power is really the ONLY thing this guy brings to the table at this point. If he can’t do that three levels below the big leagues, that’s more than just a little discouraging.
I have some hope that Santana will return and contribute in the second half of the season and it looks to me like Buxton could, as well (though with Cave’s work, there may not really be any rush to get Buck back at this point). But Sano? Maybe if I had read something… anything… about his conditioning being significantly improving, I’d have some optimism. Right now I have none.
I am resoundingly in the camp of two players for this question, and they are the two whom were expected to propel the Twins into their next level of competitiveness after they reached the playoffs in 2017. They're also both currently playing in the minor leagues because of their struggles.
I'm obviously speaking of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.
Buxton followed up his blistering second half of 2017, where hit hit .300/.347/.546 (.893 OPS) with 24 extra-base-hits (11 home runs) and 35 RBI in 56 games, with a 2018 line of just .156/.183/.200 (.383 OPS) in only 28 games. This was before and during, but thankfully not after his foot injury, when he was sent to in Rochester to regroup and has just a .679 OPS in eighteen games.
Sano followed up a 2017 season that saw him be selected to his first All-Star Game, where he also finished runner-up in the home run derby, with a miserable 37 games with the Twins before they made the what some might call drastic move, in sending him all the way down to Fort Myers. He hit just .203/.270/.405 (.675 OPS) before that move and his road back may be a long one.
If they can get even one of those guys back to playing like they had in 2017, things could look better for the Twins in the second half.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Second Half Star
Sell, Sell, Sell?
Fixing the Offense
Romero’s Rotation Spot
Top Prospect Timelines
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