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Article: Buxton’s Best Lined Up for Now?


Ted Schwerzler
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Nearly 20 years ago, a centerfielder was selected sixth overall in the Major League Baseball draft. Three years after being drafted, that same player was highlighted as the second best prospect in all of baseball per Baseball America. Fast forward just seven years from that point, 519 games later, and the career was all over. Rocco Baldelli had officially experienced the highest of highs, and lowest of lows during his professional baseball career. Those exploits could be the key to unlocking what’s next for the Twins expected superstar Byron Buxton.Recently Seth Stohs of Twins Daily reported that the Minnesota Twins new skipper went down to Georgia and met with the heralded centerfielder. Tuesday was Byron’s 25th birthday, and after being in Minnesota recently for a charity event, Buxton was in his own element this time. The meeting included a round of batting practice, and Darren Wolfson reported that the time spent went “very well.” Rocco has been described as a people person, which was evident in his introductory press conference, and connecting with such a similarly destined individual is arguably his greatest task in Twins Territory.

 

By the time he was 25, Baldelli has played in 384 big league games, almost 100 more than Buxton has seen to this point. He owned a .780 OPS and an impressive .289 batting average. Without sugarcoating it, Rocco was vastly superior to Byron numerical at this stage in their careers. Like the mentee, Rocco had also dealt with adversity. The Tampa Bay *Devil* Rays outfielder didn’t play during the 2005 season due to both an ACL tear and Tommy John surgery. He then got in less than 40 games in 2007 and 2008 due to an undiagnosed medical condition. It was the mitochondrial channelopathy that would also abruptly end his career as a 28-year-old in 2010.

 

After what was viewed as such an encouraging spark to close out the 2017 season, Buxton’s MVP votes seemed to be a distant memory last year. Playing in just 28 big league games, the Baxley, Georgia native suffered from foot ailments, migraines, and a multitude of other unforeseen circumstances. When push came to shove the Twins front office decided to play the service time game and invoke the business side of baseball, as opposed to letting their star build some momentum into the offseason.

 

When discussing how the year ended with KSTP last week, there was no uncertainty when it came to how Buxton felt about the decision. Minnesota’s front office was cutthroat, and the player was within his rights to feel like it sucked. The reality is that the past can become irrelevant, depending on how the future unfolds. Should 2019 be a season of resurgence, the two sides will likely be able to celebrate the success together and let bygones be bygones. Although Baldelli can’t make a direct impact on the field, this is where his work begins.

 

Byron Buxton was once considered the best prospect in all of baseball. He’s flashed an ability that has garnered him multiple defensive awards as well as votes feeling that he was the best player in the sport. He’s also fallen from grace causing frustration within the organization, fans, and most likely himself. There’s been adversity along the way, and a significant triumph is the chapter of this story that’s yet to be written. If Minnesota’s new man in charge can connect with a player that is still just a young man, the limit in the sky would still be plenty within reach.

 

Regardless of what talent is acquired, signed, or promoted from within, the long-awaited reality is that the Twins eventual reign over the AL Central has rested upon the shoulders of Buxton and Miguel Sano. The previous manager failed to unleash that ability in tandem and with continual success. As this team looks towards the (bright) future, it will be in the connection Baldelli makes with his team, and the output that is forthcoming from that connection, that ultimately paves the path for what is next at 1 Twins Way.

 

You’ve likely grown sick of hearing that “This could be the year,” or that “Byron is ready to turn a corner,” but if there’s a profile of an individual capable of relating to the talented 2012 first round pick, it’s the man that Buxton now regards as boss. There’s isn’t a character in this story that isn’t hoping for a happy ending, but the author taking over the narrative may just be the spark to turn the page.

 

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I think this sums up the entire situation/saga Very succinctly. I have purposely stayed away from the still growing thread of Byron being "pissed". Mainly because the entire situation has been discussed previously, and what happened, happened.

 

Simply, Buxton had some very tough luck in 2018. He also may not have been handled properly when brought up after his initial injury. (More definitely than probably, IMO). And he has every right to be disappointed or upset he wasn't brought up to close out the season, or how his season went. And the Twins were in their right to not bring him up for business purposes as well as to just shut him down to rest, heal, and have a fresh mind-set to prepare for 2019. Everyone is right. The question is, "what happens now?"

 

Rocco was not hired to nurture Buxton. But it also happens to be a tragically fortunate fact that he has experienced much of what Byron has gone through. And if his personality and communication skills are as reported, he can provide a lot of perspective and assistance to help Buxton along, as well as mend any fences. (Remember when Perkins actually filed a grievance against the Twins before having a rather long, productive and celebrated career with the team).

 

What's IMPORTANT at the end of the day is a healthy, motivated Buxton tapping in to his potential.

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From the outside, it sure seems like Falvey is adept at alienating and angering key players. Baldelli might have an impossible task trying to keep players feeling comfortable and appreciated while the FO treats even the golden child as a commodity rather than a person.

It was probably the right call to shut down Buxton’s 2018, but only if you could do it in a way that made him feel respected.

I think Falvey failed in this regard and Molitor lost his job for it.

I’m having trouble rooting for this team right now but I’m still pulling for Buxton.

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Rosario, Buxton and Kepler could be the best outfield in baseball for the next ten years.  The Twins coaches need to find a way to get each playing the way they are capable of.  Then management needs to get them signed to contracts that will keep them here.

 

As for Rooker, Kirilloff, Larnach and others.  The fact remains that none of them are likely to be better than any of this trio if they each reach their personal ceilings  They also are all still in the minors and some won't reach the ceilings we are all hoping for.  For those that do, there will be ways to get them into the lineup.   

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As usual, folks like to go way too far into the weeds on issues both in and out of sports, sports being the least significant. Its really simple. Byron Buxton either shows up in Ft. Myers as a competent major league baseball player who is part of a solution, not part of a problem, or he doesn't. No amount of hand holding, building rapport, or other touchy feely mumbo jumbo changes that simple fact. "Please, Byron, tell us what we can do to help you play better".  How about showing up as an adult and playing ball?

Edited by Number3
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Rosario, Buxton and Kepler could be the best outfield in baseball for the next ten years.  The Twins coaches need to find a way to get each playing the way they are capable of.  Then management needs to get them signed to contracts that will keep them here.

 

As for Rooker, Kirilloff, Larnach and others.  The fact remains that none of them are likely to be better than any of this trio if they each reach their personal ceilings  They also are all still in the minors and some won't reach the ceilings we are all hoping for.  For those that do, there will be ways to get them into the lineup.   

 

Kirilloff can compete. Buxton and Kepler are superior fielders, but Kirilloff's record shows a more advanced hit tool than either of them. He's tracking as a hitter with Rosario pretty well too (frankly, i think he'll outhit Eddie because he's just not the same kind of free swinger).

 

And considering that Kepler has 3 years under his belt in MLB, the odds of him reaching what we used to think was his ceiling are shrinking rapidly. Rosario probably is who he is too (and that's a really nice player, but hardly out of reach for someone who can hit like Kirilloff).

 

Buxton is the one who we still don't know about. Can he be the guy who was a 5 bWAR player in 2017? Can he be that guy without needing an insane second half to get there? Can he stay healthy enough to be that guy? I sure hope so.

 

Maybe Baldelli is the guy he needs to get there. maybe the expectations getting ratcheted down a notch will help him out. Maybe coming in a little mad and having something to prove helps. There's nothing really standing in the way.

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As usual, folks like to go way too far into the weeds on issues both in and out of sports, sports being the least significant. Its really simple. Byron Buxton either shows up in Ft. Myers as a competent major league baseball player who is part of a solution, not part of a problem, or he doesn't. No amount of hand holding, building rapport, or other touchy feely mumbo jumbo changes that simple fact. "Please, Byron, tell us what we can do to help you play better".  How about showing up as an adult and playing ball?

I doubt any team would ever tell a 24 year old, still developing player to "show up in Spring training a competent Major League baseball player" like some sort of ultimatum.

 

The front office needs to work with him as much as possible.  Hopefully they ask your question to him many many times "Please, Byron, tell us what we can do to help you play better"

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It is up to Byron Buxton to fix Byron Buxton; it is up to Miguel Sano to fix Miguel Sano. Those two will have plenty of time to prove they deserve to make big money and "right how they have been wronged". I just pray that they do the work, physically and mentally, and get the help with both to right this off-course ship we call the Twins. To borrow a bit of PJ Fleck: Buxton, along with Sano, have to grab the biggest oars to get us sailing in the right direction.

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Very good article.  Thanks for the work in pulling this together.  My only argument is the shot to Molitor.  He did not get Buxton to the heights we expected, but he was also the manager when Buxton had his best year.  Molitor had multiple hitting coaches, bench coach, Picker the ??, and nobody could put Humpty Buxton together again.  Its time to move on from Molitor and inferences of his issues. 

 

The truth is Buxton has had bad pitch recognition and bad bat control from the moment he was called up.  Fielding has only one issue - quit running into walls full speed - get under control.  But the bat and swings just seem wrong.  Maybe we will find out he has an issue with eyesight.  I hope he gets this fixed.  I hope he becomes the superstar everyone expects,   But this issue is more than just last years struggles.  

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As usual, folks like to go way too far into the weeds on issues both in and out of sports, sports being the least significant. Its really simple. Byron Buxton either shows up in Ft. Myers as a competent major league baseball player who is part of a solution, not part of a problem, or he doesn't. No amount of hand holding, building rapport, or other touchy feely mumbo jumbo changes that simple fact. "Please, Byron, tell us what we can do to help you play better".  How about showing up as an adult and playing ball?

This isn't to say you purposely abuse him to toughen him up.  It's more the way you've questioned WHY does Baldelli need to make a special trip?  Why does this need to be reported and discussed out in the open?

 

THe Twins have tried to raise Buxton in a zero gravity environment.  The guys on the bench and the coaches since day one have bent over backwards to do what they can to make him less anxious and ease his transition into the big leagues.

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“Byron is ready to turn a corner,”

 

The problem with that corner thing is that for Twins players their path forward is shaped more like an octagon. In which case Buxton might have seven more corners to turn. Which is weirdly tantamount to the old "running in circles" adage.

 

 

 

 

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“Byron is ready to turn a corner,”

 

The problem with that corner thing is that for Twins players their path forward is shaped more like an octagon. In which case Buxton might have seven more corners to turn. Which is weirdly tantamount to the old "running in circles" adage.

That this guy just said

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Buxton is just one year out from garnering 18 MVP votes, a 5.2 WAR, and a Gold Glove at a Platinum Glove position at the age of 23. While 2018 was a lost year, he is hardly a lost cause.

Buxton doesn't have to fully live up to the expectations of a second-overall pick in order to be a future mainstay with the Twins. That said, he has the tools to fully live up to those high expectations. We saw it in 2017. Fingers crossed here.

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The guys on the bench and the coaches since day one have bent over backwards to do what they can to make him less anxious and ease his transition into the big leagues.

What do you base this on? I mean, apart from what they do for any rookie to help him try to amp down and just let him show what he can do?

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From the outside, it sure seems like Falvey is adept at alienating and angering key players. Baldelli might have an impossible task trying to keep players feeling comfortable and appreciated while the FO treats even the golden child as a commodity rather than a person.
It was probably the right call to shut down Buxton’s 2018, but only if you could do it in a way that made him feel respected.
I think Falvey failed in this regard and Molitor lost his job for it.
I’m having trouble rooting for this team right now but I’m still pulling for Buxton.

It also seems like said key players are adept at not performing up to expectations.  Nothing wrong with the FO calling them out for that instead of leaving it up to the fan base to do so.....

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I don't think Twins fans hate Byron Buxton and i sure don't either and i think he is quality individual when he has been interviewed and what he has shown to public. I have followed his career through minors and all the coaches speak highly of his talents and almost all of them think he has abilitity to become big time player. The two things that have me concerned with him is he's going to have learn to play his aggressive approach to defense but not put himself in positions where he can get hurt seriously. I think over time he can learn this but if he continues like this now it could end his career permanently something I hope I won't have to see. Second thing is his batting and what I am afraid has happened to him is that by his pure athleticism he has been able to hit without having to do much with identifying pitches and being able to work counts to his favor where his abilities are at advantage.  I think he can learn this but its going to take time and being able to hit at the big leagues because he has proven he can hit next level below. The problem has been he hasn't been healthy enough to keep playing and second is he needs to work through this and I wonder if any Major league team will let him have this many at bats to learn this. The Twins have been a team with poor records we have experienced in the past should have had him up here working on this but here's the problem with that they don't want to give up service time to potential star player. So now we have player where fan base is wondering and up in arms on this high prospect why he's not performing and second we have player that's need confidence and belief in himself than he can do this. The Twins gave up on his predecessor in Hicks too because they thought he wasn't develop into the player they thought her would be and traded him now with a new club he had developed into the player we first thought we had. The fan base had all but given up on him when he was here and now everyone has opinion why did they trade him. That's the problem with baseball there is not a lot of patience on developing players by teams or fans because we all think that baseball players all develop the same way. Even the stats people are wrong on this look at many of the star players today some took longer to develop but they had long and very productive careers going later playing above the normal curve for a player. Buxton needs time and see if he can put all this together because of his talent he can still be above average player with just his defense and speed because every time he gets on he's basically in scoring position with his speed. Second his defense is probably going to save you at least 1 run a game so again high value to your pitching and your ability to win a game. Lets hope he can put it together. 

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Could they purposely tank it here to get traded? Hick tanked, got traded and went on to a play-off team. Dozier tanked went to the WS.

Hicks posted an OPS of .787 in the second half of 2015 before he was traded.

 

Dozier played worse with the Dodgers than he did with the Twins (which was saying something).

 

Anyway, I disagree with your premise.

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These two young B men are crucial cogs in a dysfunctional machine. Buxton is aces in the field and on the basepaths and alligator meal at the plate. Baldelli is an Italian pony without Molitor’s experience or wisdom who wants to be a stallion like Mollie. Stranger things have happened. Baldelli is wise to court Byron. Without a resurgence from the B Man, the jigsaw puzzle at Target Field will remain an unholy mess and these B men will be playing to the peanut gallery. Time, which is short, will tell.

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These two young B men are crucial cogs in a dysfunctional machine. Buxton is aces in the field and on the basepaths and alligator meal at the plate. Baldelli is an Italian pony without Molitor’s experience or wisdom who wants to be a stallion like Mollie. Stranger things have happened. Baldelli is wise to court Byron. Without a resurgence from the B Man, the jigsaw puzzle at Target Field will remain an unholy mess and these B men will be playing to the peanut gallery. Time, which is short, will tell.

Baldelli is an Italian pony  WTF???

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Hicks posted an OPS of .787 in the second half of 2015 before he was traded.

Dozier played worse with the Dodgers than he did with the Twins (which was saying something).

Anyway, I disagree with your premise.

I am glad you disagree but we keep having promising players get traded and then "turn the corner".  Why would they trade Hicks?  If Buxton and Sano have another bad year then what? 

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Does any one have an idea on where Dozier will land?  Is he in a tough spot or will some team grab him?

I think he's in a tough spot, given his age, 32 by start of season, and how much he fell off at the plate (and, to a lesser degree, in the field) with the Dodgers after a hot first week or so. I was reading a fan line where there was speculation about how he might fit a Yankees lineup. I like Dozier's steadiness and fire, but he didn't do himself any favors when you look at his stats. I'm just happy for him that he got a chance to be a part of their playoff run, even if he mostly sat on the bench.

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