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Front Page: Buxton’s Body and Cave’s Opportunity

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 08:06 PM

Over the weekend the Minnesota Twins were dealt a blow they’ve too often been a victim of this season. Byron Buxton, arguably the most important player on this club, hit the injured list with what essentially boils down to a shoulder dislocation. The play in question was hardly an aggressive jolt to his body, but what initially resulted in a lineup scratching for soreness has turned into a month-long question mark. For Byron this theme gets examined again, and for Jake Cave the time is now.Last season much was made of Buxton being injury-prone. He dealt with migraines during an unfortunate time with the team down in Puerto Rico, and then broke a toe during a potentially unnecessary rehab stint. Minnesota rushed him back to the lineup and ultimately, he played just 28 games before being shut down (reluctantly) in September. After a promising end to 2017, it was hardly the year anyone involved wanted.

In 2019 he’s made a couple of different appearances on the IL, and while frustrating, no one in the room is more disappointed than Byron himself. Concussions have been a thing for Buxton over the course of his career, and the latest one suffered while simply diving forward for a fly ball had all the appearances of a fluke. With his head and neck surging forward and his face/chin driving into the ground, the jarring movement was enough to do damage. He missed roughly two weeks before being cleared (although that was complicated by the removal of his wisdom teeth). The current shoulder injury was caused when tracking down a ball in the gap. The collision with the wall was seemingly not significant, but enough force was there to cause harm.

For me neither of the most recent maladies would fall into the category of reckless aggression. Minnesota has made strides in Buxton’s positioning, and through conversation with Byron, in hopes of sparing him from unnecessary hits. Taking matters into his own hands as well, Buxton told Dan Hayes of The Athletic that he bulked up this winter in hopes of a more durable stature. In short, I’m not sure there’s much to be done here than blame bad luck.

One of the most spectacular catches Byron has ever made happened in May 2017 against the Cleveland Indians. Flying towards the right-center gap, he leapt and used the wall as the sole stop for his momentum. The catch was great, the fallout was not. It’s plays like this that while spectacular, Minnesota is undoubtedly trying to avoid. Byron has the ability to generate 5-star catches (per Statcast) and lead the big leagues in Outs Above Average while rarely sacrificing himself going back on the baseball. Discussion about avoiding the wall has taken place, and even with a well ingrained instinct to make all sacrifices, I believe the message of staying healthy and available to the team has been given.

Whenever he returns, we’ll have to hope that the hot hitting follows suit (10-26, 7 XBH since his concussion return). The Twins will continue working with him to find ways to avoid preventable injury, and they’ll chalk up situations like this one as an unfortunate result and opportunity for strengthened health. Now it’s on Jake Cave to step up.

There’s no denying that Minnesota is worse without Buxton. He patrols the outfield and allows the corners to remain strong, while giving utility players one less spot they need to key in on. Max Kepler is an above average centerfielder, but he’s not Byron, and the guys around him now must pick up the slack. So far, we haven’t seen Cave do that, but the evidence is there.

Cave is not a good center fielder. He lacks the instincts to adequately cover so much ground at Target Field. He is a serviceable right fielder though and that’s what Minnesota needs from him for much of the next month. The defense shouldn’t be called into question as much down the line, but that bat must begin to play. Though sporadic, his 103 plate appearances have resulted in a paltry .198/.320/.302 slash line. He’s got just five extra-base hits and has only been a fraction of the .786 OPS player we saw a season ago.

Still 26-years-old and having played less than 130 big league games, Cave is continuing through an acclimation process. 2018 showed us that the ability is there, and in 48 Triple-A games this season he owns a .352/.393/.592 slash line with 29 extra-base hits (seven homers). Jake has nearly doubled his big-league walk rate this year, and he’s trimmed a bit off his strikeout rate. Whiffing the same amount but chasing a bit less, his hard-hit rate is now over 41%.

Download attachment: Webp.net-gifmaker.gif

Arguably the most significant issue Cave is dealing with this season is his launch angle. Hitting the ball harder matters little when he dropped to a 16.1% line drive rate (from 25.7%) and a 17.9% fly ball rate (from 30.6%). A 10-degree launch angle a season ago has dropped to the tune of a 3.7 degree mark this season. Opportunity for success lies most within addressing this problem. It will be on James Rowson to work with Cave on getting back to what he was doing last season. Lifting the ball must be a part of his game and wasting significant quality barreled balls isn’t something a fringe batter can afford.

Over the next month we’ll definitely miss Byron Buxton. We need to spend less time worrying about how to change or overhaul his style of play though. This is an unfortunate situation that the Twins face, but it isn’t one that’s been created by carelessness on Buxton’s part. To mitigate the impact of his presence, or lack thereof in the lineup, it will be on Jake Cave to improve his 2019 output and bring the numbers he’s posted in Rochester to Minnesota.

This was pulled over from our blogs section originally appearing from Off The Baggy. You can start your own blog here.

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#2 Blackjack

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 09:04 PM

The Kinks - (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman

 

Superman, superman, wish I could fly like superman
Superman, superman, want to be like superman
I want to be like superman
Superman, superman, wish I could fly like superman

------------------------

This song always pops into my when I hear that Buxton is going on the injury list - again - because of running into something - a wall, the ground, another player, after awhile you realize it isn't just an unfortunate accident. Its Byron not thinking.

 

Problem is that the 1) the Twins are a better team with him in the lineup. Save the spectacular play for the last out in the World Series. Otherwise play smarter, realize that you're not superman, that you are a human with breakable parts.You can't tell me that he couldn't play hard and still be a good defensive center, without the stupid contact.

2) He's going to play himself right out of the league with injuries. How many concussions can a body take before he has to call it quits. Look no further than Joe Mauer. Concussions forced him away from catcher and lingered through out his career.When Buxton does play himself out of the league with injuries I know I won't feel sorry for him.

 

Falvine and Baldeli need to spout the party line "thats his style of play" but I wish someone like Tori Hunter would take him aside and say "listen kid, you're being stupid, play hard but play smart" -- only in stronger terms.

 

 

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#3 Mike Sixel

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 09:23 PM

I'm ready for Kirilloff or Lanarch ...
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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#4 Kirbek

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 09:35 PM

Right field should have some options if Cave can't get it going. I heard we have some guys...
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I once knew a man from Nantucket.  He too was a fan of Kirby Puckett.


#5 Heezy1323

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 09:50 PM

Such a bummer to see Byron head back to the IL. He just can't seem to catch a break. Hopefully he can return soon.

 

For those interested, I did a quick blog post about Byron and shoulder subluxations here:

 

http://twinsdaily.co...er-subluxation/

 

 

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#6 DocBauer

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 10:28 PM

I didn't see the play that caused the injury but sounds like it wasn't a really hard impact play. And for the most part, even with the concussion and wisdom teeth situation, he's been available most of the season until now.

I understand injuries in the past but he also has had some "bad luck" incidents. With his build up, with him playing deeper, i am not yet going down the injury prone road. But dang it!

Cave is NOT old, though he is a bit of a late bloomer. No crime in that. He showed us last season, as a rookie with fairly regular playing time, what he is capable of. He has raked at Rochester this season. Despite poor ML numbers to this point in 2019m to just dismiss him would be a mistake, IMO.

Other than a quick return for Buxton, the Twins really need 2 things right now:

1] Cave to work with Rowson intently to re-discover what he is missing, or to better translate what he did last year and has been doing at Rochester. And Cave needs to relax, just have fun and let the game come to him, and just quit worrying about making an impression before another possible shuttle to Rochester.

2] Marwin to get out of his slump. He can easily be a successful part of a still quality OF situation.
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#7 Rosterman

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 11:13 PM

Wow. Buxton will be tabled in contract negotiations.

 

Cave shined last year. Partly because Zach Granite put himself on the disabled list. Wondered what would've happened if Granite had been available last year. Far from eprfect, he could play center and offered speed. Shows how an injury can slow your progress and also allow someone to leap frog you in the organization.

 

Also, could've been an opportunity for LaMonte Wade to play. Better yet, Kepler in center and bring up Brent Rooker. Maybe get that 12th guy to hit 10 homers this year. Cave IS NOT cutting it in center. I like Cave and his state of play, but you have an open roster spot, let's see Rooker or Raley if/and when either becomes healthy.

 

Heck, I would almost like to see Kirilloff get an early opportunity.

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#8 howeda7

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 01:39 AM

I'd rather see Wade or whoever else is available than more Cave. The defense alone is unwatchable. The at bats are just icing on the cake. 

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#9 Dome Dogg

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 05:37 AM

Cave was a nice story last season, but he can now be filed under the Joe Benson/Michael Ryan/Darin Mastroianni/Chris Parmelee section.

 

We've seen Cave's ceiling, and it is low.

 

Let's see what someone on the farm can do. 

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#10 Tomj14

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 05:55 AM

Cave seems like the type of player for a rebuilding club, cheap, not horrible and if he takes off, could be a great trade piece for that team.

Playing the one way he is this year for the Twins pretty much is eliminating himself from the team in the future.


#11 nokomismod

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 07:15 AM

If it looks like Buck's injury is going to extend into mid September, Cave is still struggling a week from now, and Larnach is still crushing, I would like to see the Twins go bold and give the young man a chance. Often times teams that have a magical post season run have a rookie making a big impact. The Twins already have Arraez, but why not go with a player with a much better bat and maybe similar defensive capabilities?

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#12 lwarring

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 07:22 AM

I get frustrated with Byron's unwillingness to recognize that making the ESPN highlights isn't worth being on the IL for 10 days or worse. The rest of his team needs him to stay healthy and that may mean making smarter choices about contact with the wall.

Not sure if this is Rocco's job or Nelson's job to pull him aside and say "We love the effort, but we need you on the field. Turn it down from 11"

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#13 Trov

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 08:09 AM

 

I get frustrated with Byron's unwillingness to recognize that making the ESPN highlights isn't worth being on the IL for 10 days or worse. The rest of his team needs him to stay healthy and that may mean making smarter choices about contact with the wall.

Not sure if this is Rocco's job or Nelson's job to pull him aside and say "We love the effort, but we need you on the field. Turn it down from 11"

If you asked Buxton to pull up and not play at 11, as you say, then you do not have Buxton, you have someone lessor.Sure, that still may be better than not having him at all.I agree, he should get with someone like Hunter to learn how to dive and jump into wall better, but asking him to tone it down will lower his value, the question will be how much lower and is it worth the trade off of having him on field more. 


#14 shabbos1

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 08:44 AM

I'm definitely no hitting coach, but Cave's swing just doesn't look like it will ever find any real consistency in the big leagues.  

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#15 Dome Dogg

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 08:54 AM

 

If it looks like Buck's injury is going to extend into mid September, Cave is still struggling a week from now, and Larnach is still crushing, I would like to see the Twins go bold and give the young man a chance. Often times teams that have a magical post season run have a rookie making a big impact. The Twins already have Arraez, but why not go with a player with a much better bat and maybe similar defensive capabilities?

Similar to what the Twins did with Cuddyer in 2002, although Cuddy got a taste of MLB in late 2001. He only had like 80 games in AAA before getting the call up to play instead of the Mohr/Buchanan/Kielty pu-pu-platter. 

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"Kid, don't you think there's a problem when you get that excited over a seeing-eye single?"


#16 Darius

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 09:04 AM

Let’s be realistic here. Larnach and/or Kirilloff aren’t coming to play for the Twins this year. Probably not even in September.

That said, there has to be another option. Cave is killing this team when he’s forced into action. He arguably cost the Twins the Yankees series with shoddy defense. The guy can’t hit major league pitching right now. It appears to be a confidence/mental issue, we’ve seen him perform in the past, and he rakes at AAA. But, it’s a big issue right now.

So, what are the options? IMO, I would look to Alejandro De Aza and his 1.000+ OPS at AAA right now. He has a substantial MLB track record. Can Brent Rooker or Zander Wiel adequately play RF? It would be great to Rooker some ABs and have him ready to be a bench bat come September/October.

These are really the only options at this time with Raley and Wade injured. But, I would definitely give those guys a shot until Cave can get his head straight. You just can’t continue to let him flail around out there in the hopes he’ll figure it out when we’re battling for the division/home-field.

Edited by Darius, 06 August 2019 - 09:13 AM.

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#17 redstorm

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 09:09 AM

 

Let’s be realistic here. Larnach and/or Kirilloff aren’t coming to play for the Twins this year. Probably not even in September.

That said, there has to be another option. Cave is killing this team when he’s forced into action. He arguably cost the Twins the Yankees series with shoddy defense. The guy can’t hit major league pitching right now. It appears to be a confidence/mental issue, we’ve seen him perform in the past, and he takes at AAA. But, it’s a big issue right now.

So, what are the options? IMO, In would look to Alejandro De Aza and his 1.000+ OPS at AAA right now. Can Brent Rooker or Zander Wiel adequately play the outfield? This are really the only options at this time with Raley and Wade injured. But, I would definitely give those guys a shot until Cave can get his head straight. You just can’t continue to let him flail around out there in the hopes he’ll figure it out when we’re battling for the division/home-field.

 

Rooker is also currently hurt, so he's not an option right now either.

 

If you are saying no to Kirilloff and Larnach, your options are probably de Aza, Barnes, or Wiel...


#18 Mike Sixel

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 09:09 AM

It's weird that other teams bring up young phenoms.... Why can't Minnesota do that with the OF? I'm pretty sure their current 2B is about their age. This is a world series type year. Not a year to sit back and be conservative, Imo.
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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#19 spycake

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 09:32 AM

It's weird that other teams bring up young phenoms.... Why can't Minnesota do that with the OF? I'm pretty sure their current 2B is about their age. This is a world series type year. Not a year to sit back and be conservative, Imo.


I'd be all for bringing them up, but Larnach is striking out 33% of the time in AA, and Kirilloff isn't exactly doing great down there either. So I'd anticipate scuffles in MLB from them that could likely last through September and October, which sort of nullifies the value of calling them up now.

Given our roster, I don't think Cave needs to play all that much anyway. So I'm not that desperate to find someone better than Cave at the moment.
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#20 bighat

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 09:39 AM

When Buxton emerged as the star we knew he was, I think many of us felt secure that we had a serviceable backup in Cave this season.

 

I have no idea what happened to this guy. He was very, very solid last season. I would have never predicted that he'd struggle so much. Watching him wave through low-and-inside pitches with that upper-cut swing is frustrating. I'm sure it is for him, too.




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