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  • Buxton Stalls Out, Again


    Nick Nelson

    The soft-spoken kid from Georgia's ascent to the major leagues was as blisteringly fast as his foot speed. His adaptation to the highest level, however, has been anything but.

    Byron Buxton still hasn't figured things out. He doesn't appear close to doing so. And it's becoming worrisome.

    Image courtesy of Winslow Townson. USA Today

    With the Twins needing to open a roster spot for Trevor Plouffe's impending return from the disabled list, Buxton was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday. He was sadly the obvious choice.

    The center fielder's latest stint in the majors was about as fruitless as all that preceded it. While we have seen brief glimpses of promise at times, they have always proven fleeting. Since the All-Star break, Buxton was 6-for-54 (.130) with one double, three runs scored and 19 strikeouts.

    His lack of progress at the plate is as obvious from watching him as it is from examining the numbers. After four separate tries with the Twins, and more than 350 plate appearances, Buxton continues to play into the hands of opposing hurlers. He routinely falls behind in counts and is doomed once he gets there.

    When Buxton is forced to protect the plate, he disintegrates. With the pitcher ahead this year, he has batted .064 and slugged .115.

    He has been one of the worst hitters in the majors since his debut, and isn't really showing signs of improvement other than a modestly improved contact rate. Now, he'll return to the International League, which he clobbered to the tune of a 1.007 OPS following his last demotion. Given that his confidence-building stretch in Rochester yielded no meaningful improvement at the MLB level, one wonders what might change this time around.

    On the one hand, you can hardly blame the Twins for choosing Buxton as the odd man out. He looks blatantly overwhelmed by big-league pitching. On the other hand, can we really expect him to make the necessary adjustments against lesser competition? The popular narrative is that Buxton was rushed, and maybe he was, but when he has a .357/.415/.585 hitting line at Triple-A, it's tough to fathom what he has left to gain there.

    Paul Molitor said after Sunday's game that Buxton would go down to work on "physical, mechanical things," which presumably means that the outfielder will attempt to shorten his swing to become competitive against tough pitches. Yet, when he's not facing a steady diet of tough major-league pitches, the learning experience can only go so far.

    Ideally, the Twins would keep all of their young pieces on roster and allow them to continue growing alongside one another. Plouffe's return threw a wrench into that blueprint because it essentially meant that one of Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Kennys Vargas or Miguel Sano needed to be removed. There was no argument for the others based on merit, so Buck is the guy.

    Ostensibly he's going to iron things out in a less pressure-packed environment, but in reality the only way he'll solve his problems is by conquering them here. Unlike others on the roster, there are no questions surrounding Buxton's work ethic, no doubts concerning his commitment to improving. Given the time, he will figure it out.

    Will this move accelerate or set back that eventuality? Are the Twins truly doing the right thing for their prized prospect's development, or are they simply sending him away to make room for an aging, mediocre veteran who is almost assuredly on his way out?

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    Your approach is one dimensional. You don't leave a guy that isn't hitting in the lineup, so he has to go down because he won't get the playing time needed to work it out up here. Its that simple. We don't trot out a lineup of 8 hitters and a guy who needs to work on things.

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    I realize that Major League pitching is significantly better than AAA pitching, but the difference between how he fairs against MLB and AAA pitching is just astonishing to me. Most hitters' OPSs seem to drop a hundred or two hundred points in the transition from MLB to AA, but his seems to drop 400. What gives? Is it all because he can't recognize sliders well? Wouldn't that have also cost him in the minors? The sliders at the MLB level are much better, but not THAT much better.

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    Coaching?  Who is there to help him.  His MiLB stats, his continual ranking as the number one prospect were not just because of optimistic Twins fans.  The scouts, the people who should know and do the rankings are not usually this wrong.  So beyond Buxton, what the hell is happening?  

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    Can't really argue with this one. I'm a big proponent of letting players figure it out in the big leagues, especially a guy with his physical tools. But, you just can't justify giving him big league at bats anymore. He isnt showing any signs of progress. At this point, you can only hope getting some confidence back will get him back on track in Spetember (he's already shown he can hit down there, that's not the issue).

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    I suspect it also could have something to do with his health, particularly his knees. He was hurt 7/6 running into the wall. He was hurt 7/1 running into the wall. He was hurt 7/8 (and carted off the field) running into the wall. He was hurt 7/31 when he tweaked his knee on the basepaths (and if I recall, he had run into the wall a few days before). Hopefully he'll get back a little confidence, work on some mechanics and get healthy. We'll see him in September and hope that next step comes. FWIW, I'm still not concerned. 

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    He may indeed work on some mechanical issues while he is down. But if nothing else, just getting in a groove could also go a long way, simply to rebuild some confidence. I think there a good chance at this point that he's pressing.

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    I think it is another example of the Twins promoting good MILB results versus gearing up a player for MLB success.

     

    Duffy was sent down to develop a third pitch. We went from toe tap, now a shorter swing. And one of the fastest guys in the league didn't learn how to bunt in our 3 plus years.

     

    The Twins are failing their prospects. Just look to Keith Law when he says he would really like Buxton to get a shot in a new org or with a new regime here.

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    I suspect it also could have something to do with his health, particularly his knees. He was hurt 7/6 running into the wall. He was hurt 7/1 running into the wall. He was hurt 7/8 (and carted off the field) running into the wall. He was hurt 7/31 when he tweaked his knee on the basepaths (and if I recall, he had run into the wall a few days before). Hopefully he'll get back a little confidence, work on some mechanics and get healthy. We'll see him in September and hope that next step comes. FWIW, I'm still not concerned.

     

    Well then it's obvious, he doesn't need a hitting coach. He needs a warning track coach.

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    I agree that sending him down to allow Plouffe to come back is disappointing, but Buck needs to get his confidence back (again) and lately each AB in the bigs his eyes are telling us he does not believe in himself.  Let him stay with the Red Wings until the end of their season and then he comes back up. I would like to see him bunt at least once a game in the minors to get him to really see the ball. At 22 I just don't believe in the adage of letting him sink or swim with the big club. He will get it at some point, and when he does he will be the electrifying factor we need in CF.

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    I suspect it also could have something to do with his health, particularly his knees. He was hurt 7/6 running into the wall. He was hurt 7/1 running into the wall. He was hurt 7/8 (and carted off the field) running into the wall. He was hurt 7/31 when he tweaked his knee on the basepaths (and if I recall, he had run into the wall a few days before). Hopefully he'll get back a little confidence, work on some mechanics and get healthy. We'll see him in September and hope that next step comes.

    But the injuries are part of the deal with Buxton. They have been for three years straight. That's not something you fix by sending him to the minors. If confidence is the concern, we're saying a second demotion to the minors in four months is helpful?

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    It's a deserving demotion to Rochester. Sometimes performance or lack thereof is reason enough

     

    Player development is a problem but it's not like most of the other young hitters haven't shown something in the major leagues. I have doubts about a few ever being great long term players but at least it's something.

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    A small bone to pick regarding Buxton having "clobbered" it or "tore it up" (as some have written) in AAA. Like there's nothing left there for him to learn ...

     

    Buxton has a total of 188 plate appearances at AAA.

     

    It is not beyond reason that he spend substantial time there, including all of next year (and the year after that, if need be) because right now he is an A+ defender and an F+ hitter.

    Edited by ScrapTheNickname
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    A small bone to pick regarding Buxton having "clobbered" it or "tore it up" (as some have written) in AAA. Like there's nothing left there for him to learn ...

     

    Buxton has a total of 188 plate appearances at AAA.

     

    It is not beyond reason that he spend substantial time there, including all of next year (and the year after that, if need be) because right now he is an A+ defender and an F+ hitter.

     

    I cannot emphasize the bolded statement enough. Add to it that he has a grand total of 237 plate appearances in AA. You're talking about a guy that doesn't even have a full season of PAs in the high minors. We need to get beyond the 'he tore it up in AAA.'  Yeah, he's done well there in short samples, but that is a far cry from being ready to hit major league pitching.

     

    The real question is what does the team do with him next season. Do they bring in a 1 year stop gap and start him in AAA?  They should have done that this season.

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