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Article: What To Do With Byron Buxton?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:53 PM
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins activated Byron Buxton from his fourth separate stint on the disabled list this season. It's been a night...
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Article: Twins Prospect Pulse: Trade Deadline Brings New...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 10:47 PM
Welcome to another edition of the Twins Prospect Pulse. Over the past month the system got a big boost from additions made around the tra...
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Article: Looking Back: Twins Take Four Prep Hitters Atop...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 10:45 PM
In 2015, first-year manager Paul Molitor led the Minnesota Twins to an 83-79 win, the team’s first .500 season since 2010. Because of tha...
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Game Thread (8/14): Twins vs. Pittsburgh, 7:10 PM CT

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:43 PM
Twins | 54-63 overall, 33-24 at home, 5-5 last 10 Jake Odorizzi, RHP | 4.50 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 2.45 K:BB in 120.0 IPPirates | 61-58 overall,...
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Article: Twins Minor League Report (8/14): Buxton’s Back,...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 10:11 PM
As Nick wrote about tonight, it’s hard to know what to do with Byron Buxton for the rest of the 2018 season. The Twins aren’t going to th...
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Byron Buxton Hopes Adjustments Pay Off

Byron Buxton was not completely satisfied with his introduction to baseball’s highest level.

That’s the simplistic way to phrase it. More accurate: Pitchers dissected him like a science project. He swung through a high percentage of over the plate. His strikeout rate ballooned as they threw him a bevy of breaking balls and fastballs off the plate. When he did connect, more often than not, the ball came off his bat at the speed of spilt syrup. This performance was unbecoming of the game’s top prospect.

Hitting the ball -- and hitting the ball hard -- has been Buxton’s goal heading into his second tour of duty and he’s made changes to reach that goal.
Image courtesy of Kim Klement
While Buxton acknowledged he was seeing pitches and movement that he had never truly experienced in the minor leagues, he was not making any excuses for the results either.

“I gotta sit in the strike zone,” he said about his tendency to chase pitches. “I mean, yeah, it's a big adjustment up here but you gotta make adjustments to pitchers too. It was a little tough transition for me to adjust early but later on in the season I started picking up a little more and I was starting to feel really good at the plate.”

After striking out in nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances over his first 21 games, he was able to reduce the frequency to 25 percent over the last 25 games. He quit chasing as many pitches out of the zone and he was able to put the barrel on a few more. Buxton said that he felt that he was able to anticipate a bit better what pitchers were trying to do with him in his last month of the season.

“I started figuring out a little bit of what they might be try to do to me in certain situations. When I went up there I just got ready to hit. I got ready to hit the fastball and if they threw a fastball in there I put a pretty good swing on it.”

Going forward, however, Buxton wants to be aggressive earlier in the at-bat and avoid the dreaded two-strike counts.

“It's hard to hit with two strikes, especially up here in the bigs,” he said. “So if they throw you a pitch you can handle or a pitch you want, that's the pitch the majority of the guys will jump on and do damage with. It's hard to hit with two strikes with the nasty breakers and change-ups and cutters and sinkers. It's too many pitches you try to rely when you just took a get-me-over curve ball or down the middle fastball.”

In terms of his contact, the gory batted ball numbers paint a somber portrait of Buxton’s first season with the Twins. ESPN/TruMedia’s data said that Buxton posted a .054 well-hit average (compared to the MLB norm of .138) which was the fifth-lowest among all hitters with 90 or more plate appearances. Likewise, according to BaseballSavant.com, Buxton’s 2015 Exit Velocity average was 87.3 miles per hour. In a simple terms, a ball hit 87 miles per hour roughly translates to a .236 average with a paltry .282 slugging percentage last season. On the other hand, if he were able to increase the exit velocity to send more pitches back out at the 90-95 mile per hour range, he could be looking at a .290 average with a .400 slugging -- a slash line that would be very respectable for a 22-year-old center fielder.

In order to generate more velocity off the bat, Buxton worked on incorporating a little leg kick into his swing.

“I went into the offseason last year and picked up a little bit of a leg kick, not too big,” Buxton said of his subtle change. “I want to keep [the leg kick] where it's at -- not too big, not trying to being overpowering. Keep me back behind the ball. Keep my head still. It's more for me to get that edge to make contact a little bit more, try to hit the ball hard and more consistent.”



With the new leg kick, Buxton is going back to his roots. Before he was drafted by the Twins he displayed an open stance with a leg kick but that was changed shortly after he entered the organization. “They changed me in rookie ball,” he says of the switch. “They closed me up and tried to slow down some of my movement a bit.”

Buxton’s mechanics may remind some of Torii Hunter’s swing but Buxton quickly dispelled that notion by saying that Hunter did not influence his swing style -- only helped him with the mental side of the game.



So far this spring he is satisfied with this changes in his swing. The hardest part, he says is gaining the right amount of at-bats to feel fully confident.

“It's all about getting comfortable, especially if you have never had it before like I had,” he emphasized. “Just getting at-bats, get it comfortable, get to where you know when you need to start your load, where to finish your load, things like that. It's going good. I've gotten comfortable at the plate.”

Byron Buxton is in the midst of the maturation process. In some capacity, all players go through this stage. Some do it quickly and some linger. Buxton has all the raw natural tools to be one of the game’s best two-way players. A rough introduction at the plate shouldn’t sidetrack that outcome.

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22 Comments

The toughest part is getting to that bat flip at the end. Takes confidence. 

    • Parker Hageman, h2oface and HitInAPinch like this
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clutterheart
Mar 25 2016 04:13 AM
I think for the first year or two he will be more valuable in the field than the plate. Hopefully he starts the year batting ninth and he can focus on playing great defense.

 

I think for the first year or two he will be more valuable in the field than the plate. Hopefully he starts the year batting ninth and he can focus on playing great defense.

Eh.  His defense is strong, but he will never be an elite player if he doesn't learn how to hit major league pitching.  He could have all the speed and defense in the world.  If he can't hit then he isn't a very good major leaguer.

 

I hope the Twins don't start looking at him like Willie Mays Hayes...have him use his legs to get on base.  If that's what we end up with then so much for all the hype

 

Eh.  His defense is strong, but he will never be an elite player if he doesn't learn how to hit major league pitching.  He could have all the speed and defense in the world.  If he can't hit then he isn't a very good major leaguer.

 

I hope the Twins don't start looking at him like Willie Mays Hayes...have him use his legs to get on base.  If that's what we end up with then so much for all the hype

I really think (hope) this philosphy harkens back to the Gardy days.  They did that with Gomez, and got so frustrated Gardy had him shipped out.  

i'm hoping Molitor & Bruno realize this kid could be something special, and don't try to turn him into the next Otis Nixon.

    • Willihammer likes this

 

Eh.  His defense is strong, but he will never be an elite player if he doesn't learn how to hit major league pitching.  He could have all the speed and defense in the world.  If he can't hit then he isn't a very good major leaguer.

 

 

Talk about going out on a limb!  If Buxton can't hit he isn't going to be a star!  

 

 

    • PseudoSABR and nytwinsfan like this

 

I really think (hope) this philosphy harkens back to the Gardy days.  They did that with Gomez, and got so frustrated Gardy had him shipped out.  

i'm hoping Molitor & Bruno realize this kid could be something special, and don't try to turn him into the next Otis Nixon.

With Atlanta Nixon hit .278 with a .351 OBP. and while fast he wasn't Buxton fast. I would be just fine with .278 and .351 OBP from a lead off hitter with blazing speed and great defense.  I hope Molitor and Bruno realize this kid isn't Mike Trout and end up turning him into the next  Willie Norwood. 

I also don't think the mistake was shipping out Gomez for Hardy but rather Hardy for nothing. Not to mention it is quite likely that Gomez would have done just fine with Twins if he had been here several years also.

    • HitInAPinch likes this

 

Talk about going out on a limb!  If Buxton can't hit he isn't going to be a star!  

Sounds silly, but I have talked with a number of people who believe his speed and defense already makes him a star.  

He also needs to learn how to steal bases, which he was mediocre/bad at last year in the majors.

 

I hope he figures it out, loads of natural talent there.

    • Dantes929 likes this

 

He also needs to learn how to steal bases, which he was mediocre/bad at last year in the majors.

 

I hope he figures it out, loads of natural talent there.

I would add "without hurting himself," to the first sentence. My second-biggest worry with Buxton is that he is going to be a great player for 120 games a year but always have a stint or two on the DL.

    • Danchat likes this

 

I would add "without hurting himself," to the first sentence. My second-biggest worry with Buxton is that he is going to be a great player for 120 games a year but always have a stint or two on the DL.

I think of Jose Reyes.  A guy who had to use his legs to be successful.  It got to a point where injuries started to take over when he hit 30.  That is what happens to a lot of "speed first" guys.  When he hit a triple last year he was running real fast, but he was running out of control.  That will catch up to him

 

 

I have all the confidence in the world that Buxton will be outstanding defensively and very good offensively, even if he never reaches great status. Too much raw ability, and even in milb he showed the ability to adapt and improve.

Now, how quickly he starts being at least good is the question. Still so, so young and missing most of a season did him no favors. I am not saying it's a mistake to have him in the majors to begin the year. But I do think it's a mistake to feel compelled to.
    • Major Leauge Ready likes this

 

I have all the confidence in the world that Buxton will be outstanding defensively and very good offensively, even if he never reaches great status. Too much raw ability, and even in milb he showed the ability to adapt and improve.

Now, how quickly he starts being at least good is the question. Still so, so young and missing most of a season did him no favors. I am not saying it's a mistake to have him in the majors to begin the year. But I do think it's a mistake to feel compelled to.

 

Without any real evidence that he will learn more in AAA than he will in ML, I think it is and should be a given he makes the roster.  

 

I firmly believe he becomes a superstar, but would not be surprised at all if his obp hovers around .300 this year, but his value in the field and on the bases is far greater than any other option can provide. 

    • nytwinsfan and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this

Buxton only has 55 ABin AAA. He's going to struggle at the plate. I think they're rushing him to appease the fans. But with Sano lumbering around RF they need his range in CF.

Jeff Sullivan did a chat at Fangraphs today.  In the chat, this was brought up by our own Mike Sixel (forgive me if he's mentioned this already).

 

Mike Sixel: 'Will Buxton hit much this year? I admit, I am beginning to wonder if Cameron’s bearish view of that tool is true…….'

 

Jeff Sullivan: 'I’m presently unconvinced Buxton’s ever really going to hit past .260. That would make him out to be a disappointment. But it would also make him out to be underrated, given his expected running and defense.'

 

 

 

"Ever going to hit .260" seems extremely bearish, even though he highlights speed and defense value.
Addenda:

Won't let me edit right now. Buxton has 170 total at bats above AA at 21. I am not shocked about a struggle.

If Buxton wants to crank up his average, he can do what players have always done: Swing flat with a smaller bat. Especially now in his first full year, Buxton's greatest value to the team offensively is for him to spend a lot of time on base, then use his speed to apply pressure. The home runs can come later, after he's familiar with major league pitching. 

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The Wise One
Mar 26 2016 04:26 AM

Buxton had59 AB in AAA and hit over .400. Whatmore would Buxton have to learnat AAA?He came, he saw, he crushed. His batting average last year in the majors was the learning curve and adjustment phase. Now that he is all learned and adjusted, with his speed he can hit well over .300, Surely he will have a hit for every third at bat.

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Parker Hageman
Mar 26 2016 06:15 AM
Jeff Sullivan: 'I’m presently unconvinced Buxton’s ever really going to hit past .260. That would make him out to be a disappointment. But it would also make him out to be underrated, given his expected running and defense.'

 

 

Seems just based on speed alone he should hit over .260. The swinging bunt yesterday was a prime example of how he's going to get hits that others would have been thrown out on. 

 

He still doesn't look fully comfortable when facing this competition. Even with the swing change, he doesn't swing with intent. He seems more defensive in his swings. As he said, he doesn't like hitting with two strikes (who does) but if the approach is swinging to avoid two strikes rather than driving the right pitch well...

 

It's a mental/comfort thing. 

With Atlanta Nixon hit .278 with a .351 OBP. and while fast he wasn't Buxton fast. I would be just fine with .278 and .351 OBP from a lead off hitter with blazing speed and great defense. I hope Molitor and Bruno realize this kid isn't Mike Trout and end up turning him into the next Willie Norwood.
I also don't think the mistake was shipping out Gomez for Hardy but rather Hardy for nothing. Not to mention it is quite likely that Gomez would have done just fine with Twins if he had been here several years also.

the issue wasn't the trade of Gogo, it was the treatment and patience. I'm not sure Buck and Gogo are good comps though. Buck seems to have a better head for the game, but that's just conjecture based on a handful of articles I read on the internets.

Personally I find it reassuring Buxton is trying to adopt a more aggressive approach at the plate. I agree the Otis Nixon batting avg/obp comp is a different era of baseball. .278/.351 in 2016 would be a great season to build upon.

 

 

Personally I find it reassuring Buxton is trying to adopt a more aggressive approach at the plate. I agree the Otis Nixon batting avg/obp comp is a different era of baseball. .278/.351 in 2016 would be a great season to build upon.

Buxton's swing last year reminded me of Molitor's with the no load, still head and quick bat and while I would be ok with Nixon's numbers this year I would be thrilled with Molitor's.  The problem is that kind of swing still has a rhythm to it and Buxton struggled to recognize pitches and appeared to be indecisive resulting in late and weak swings. I am just hoping for a good start.  I think veterans  know the hits will come and don't freak out about an early low batting average but rookies press.  I always thought Valencia's good year was spurred on by a few infield hits and bloopers in his first couple weeks. It allowed him to relax until he squared up a few.   

On a separate note I always wonder about broadcasting your approach in the papers. Opposition might be reading these papers as well.

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Parker Hageman
Mar 26 2016 09:48 AM
On a separate note I always wonder about broadcasting your approach in the papers. Opposition might be reading these papers as well.

 

 

I don't think there is anything a team can glean from Buxton's discussion. Sure, he wants to be more aggressive early in the count. Until anything changes and he proves he can hit in those situations, they'll likely continue to pitch to him the same. 

 

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