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Should Byron Buxton Shift to Designated Hitter?


Twins Daily Contributor

As Byron Buxton slid into second base, all of Twins Territory collectively held their breath. Thankfully, his knee injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but the Twins may need to shift Buxton’s role when he returns to action. 

There’s no way that it happened again. Most fans had to be thinking after watching Buxton slide into second base at Fenway Park. He slapped the ground in frustration and walked off the field under his own power, but it would mean more missed time for Buxton with an offense that has struggled to start 2022. So, what can the Twins do with their star center fielder? 

Injuries have been part of Byron Buxton’s story throughout his professional career. Minnesota has already tried various techniques to keep Buxton healthy, including altering his jumping technique at the wall and positioning him deeper in the outfield. Those strategies may have helped him avoid some injuries, but every game he misses is value he isn’t providing to the Twins. Shifting Buxton to a more regular designated hitter role is a unique idea that deserves some exploration. 

Alex Fast is a VP at Pitcher List and he creates content for ESPN and MLB Network. He has over 26.1 K follows on Twitter, so he is certainly a voice that many listen to in the baseball world. However, many Twins fans may have been a little stunned by his suggestion over the weekend.

Buxton doesn’t have any structural damage to his knee, and the team hopes he can avoid an IL trip. One way to get him back into the line-up is to have him serve as DH. Minnesota utilized this strategy in recent years with Josh Donaldson and his aging legs. Nick Gordon is undoubtedly a defensive downgrade, but Buxton in the line-up is more valuable than having him on the bench. 

On the surface, this might seem like a logical solution, but many of Buxton’s recent injuries have occurred while on offense. His knee injury resulted from him stretching a single into a double. Last season, he broke his hand on a hit by pitch and suffered through some hamstring issues. While his hamstrings may benefit from less time in the outfield, these other injuries are still likely to occur when he serves in a DH role. 

Buxton has never played a game at the DH position in his career. It may seem easy to slide a player into that spot, but it can be a difficult transition for some hitters. Not playing on the defensive side can take focus off the game and make it harder for a hitter to lock in when it is time to step into the batter’s box. Buxton may be able to handle the transition, but he’s passionate about his defensive ability and the value he provides the team in center field. 

While Buxton’s bat is elite, he provides so much value on the defensive side of the ball. This season, even in limited action, he ranks in the 95th percentile for Outs Above Average (OAA). Since 2016, he has compiled 60 OAA even with his time missed due to injury. He is arguably baseball’s best defensive center fielder. Gordon has showcased some defensive versatility during his big-league career, but he is a significant downgrade in centerfield, especially since he just started playing the position in 2021. 

Playing centerfield is one of baseball’s most taxing defensive positions, so allowing Buxton a respite from the outfield may get him back into the line-up. However, this seems like a short-term solution while the Twins are looking for a long-term answer for Buxton’s injury woes. When on the field, Buxton plays with an all-out effort that separates him from many other big-league players. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a myriad of injuries, and it might be time for the team to take a new approach. 

Do you think shifting Buxton to a more regular DH role would keep him in the line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

 


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I'm not sure that I understand the logic of moving him to DH.  He got hurt running the bases, which is what a DH would be doing.

He's been hurting while fielding, he's been hurt while running the bases.  If the goal is for him not to get injured, he's got to shift to umpire or managing.

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 No.

That's the only answer to this premise. He's the best CF in baseball. His bat is still good at a DH, but you lose a crap ton of value with him not in the field. The team needs to figure out how to keep him healthy, and that is not going to be done by wrapping him in bubble wrap. 

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1 hour ago, wsnydes said:

I'm not sure that I understand the logic of moving him to DH.  He got hurt running the bases, which is what a DH would be doing.

He's been hurting while fielding, he's been hurt while running the bases.  If the goal is for him not to get injured, he's got to shift to umpire or managing.

Don't forget he has also been hurt while batting. I think he need to be switched to another team.

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1 hour ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

This is a really bad idea not based in reality. If memory serves, the past three Buxton injuries have happened either at the plate or on the basepaths.

So we're trading a platinum glove just to keep him off the field?

100% agree... it's crazy to me that a respected national writer would even think of this, much less spend any time writing about it. 

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1 hour ago, mikelink45 said:

No - would you have someone else run the bases for him?  He is fragile, Kiriloff is fragile.  I do not know what the Twins can do about it, but we have only one DH position and we have Sanchez and Sano for that. 

Except Sano is our starting first basemen, and Sanchez is our starting catcher...

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Buxton gets hurt on offense and our response to that should be to have him only play the offensive side of the game to fix the problem of him getting hurt on offense? Yikes.

Also some inaccuracies in this article. Buxton has served as DH, just last week actually. It was a big discussion point on this site as he DHed and Correa sat on the same day. And suggesting he was stretching a single into a double on the play he was hurt is quite a stretch in itself. He was jogging on what should've been a standup 2 base error and that's what caused him to slide.

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15 minutes ago, JDubs said:

This has to be the most pristine example of Betteridge's law of headlines I've seen in a long time

Except that is the law that any headline question under this, ends with "no". I do feel this was a decent question, but I feel the true question should be, can we trade Buxton even though he is tied to a $100mm contract, and plays more for AAA than the MLB club?

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Suggesting we ease Buxton back in from this injury at DH makes sense for a few days if we aren't putting him on the IL.  It's not unlike what happens in rehab assignments where players work their way back in phases.

Leaping from that to regular DH time is preposterous.  Randball Stu would be proud of that kind of premise.  Byron Buxton gets hurt doing pretty much everything involved with playing baseball.  If he's healthy enough to play....you play him in CF.

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2 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

Put one of best defenders in all of baseball at DH.  Really???  This post is 18 days late.

I agree.  Byron hurt himself sliding into 2nd!!!  How would DHing have helped?

If you are thinking about temporarily DHing, If he isn't healthy enough to be roaming around center, he probably shouldn't be hitting and running bases.

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It seems funny that not too long ago we were having the discussion whether or not Arraez should DH, not having a permanent position and wanting his bat in the line up.  Now it is Buxton, who not only has a position, is the best in the league at it.  Or should it be Sano, who has played both corners and is lacking at both?  Or should it be Sanchez, who the Yankees couldn't get rid of fast enough, because we don't want him to catch any more than necessary?  Buck is as fragile as they come, Arraez has questionable knees, Sano and Sanchez lack great defense and strike out too often, so they DH for their power.  If I had the answer to this conundrum I would be in the FO myself.  Maybe someone up there should come up with an answer.  

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2 hours ago, wsnydes said:

I'm not sure that I understand the logic of moving him to DH.  He got hurt running the bases, which is what a DH would be doing.

He's been hurting while fielding, he's been hurt while running the bases.  If the goal is for him not to get injured, he's got to shift to umpire or managing.

He is Buxton. If he went into umpiring he would trip over a base, fall into a dugout, or get hit in an indelicate area whilst behind the plate. More and more I think Bud Grant knew whereof he spoke: You aren’t valuable to a team if you can’t stay on the field. 
 

Who would have taken 7 as the over/under before games were missed due to an injury? 

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I seem to remember the Red Sox (or Yankees?) once moved one of baseball's best starting pitchers from the mound because he was such a good hitter. I feel like it worked out pretty well. 

Wish I could remember that player's name...

 

But seriously, a week as a DH while he's ramping back up might make sense. As a long term strategy? Hahahaha! I laugh until milk shoots from my nose- and I am not drinking milk.

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