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  • Setting Expectations For Byron Buxton's First Game


    dwade

    As you may have heard from other places on the internet and quite possibly on this very website, the Twins' top prospect, Byron Buxton, has joined the team in Texas and the assumption is that he'll make his debut on Sunday.

    Understandably, there is a lot of excitement surrounding his arrival and surely produced a lot of hand-wringing prior to their debut. amount of expectation-tempering as Twins fans try to figure out what it means to have a player of Buxton's caliber on the roster

    While Buxton wasn't Baseball America's top prospect for 2015 (that prize went to the Cubs' Kris Bryant) he was their 2014 top prospect, which puts him in some pretty elite company, joining players like Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, Joe Mauer, and Alex Rodriguez.

    All of these players excited their team's fans upon their arrival and surely produced lot of hand-wringing prior to their debut. So, here is what the last 20 years of Baseball America Top Prospects did in the very first major league game, along with the date of their debut (Pitcher stats have been omitted):

    2015: Kris Bryant, April 17, 2015, 0-4, 3K

    2014: Byron Buxton: Pending

    2013: Jurickson Profar: September 2, 2012, 2-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI

    2012: Bryce Harper: April 28, 2012, 1-3, 2B, RBI

    2011: Bryce Harper: April 28, 2012, 1-3, 2B, RBI

    2010: Jason Heyward: April 5, 2010, 2-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI,

    2009: Matt Wieters: May 29, 2009, 0-4, K

    2008: Jay Bruce: May 27, 2008, 3-3, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB

    2007: Daisuke Matsuzaka

    2006: Delmon Young: August 29, 2006, 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI

    2005: Joe Mauer: April 5, 2004, 2-3, 2 R, 2 BB

    2004: Joe Mauer: April 5, 2004, 2-3, 2 R, 2 BB

    2003: Mark Teixeira: April 1, 2003, 0-3, BB, K

    2002: Josh Beckett

    2001: Josh Hamilton: April 2, 2007, 0-1 (1-3, HR, R, RBI, 2BB in full debut on April 10)

    2000: Rick Ankiel (P)

    1999: J.D. Drew: September 2, 1998, 0-2, K (0-3, R, 2K, BB in first start on Sept. 13)

    1998: Ben Grieve: September 3, 1997, 3-4, 3 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI, BB

    1997: Andruw Jones: August 15, 1996, 1-5, R, RBI, 2K

    1996: Andruw Jones: August 15, 1996, 1-5, R, RBI, 2K

    1995: Alex Rodriguez: July 8, 1994, 0-3

    The good news for Buxton is that, unless he becomes the first top prospect in the last 20 years to earn a Golden Sombrero on his debut, he's unlikely to have a worse coming out party than Bryant did in April.

    On the other end of the spectrum, he'll be chasing Ben Grieve and Jay Bruce for the best day, though Jurickson Profar isn't far behind in terms of productivity. If that isn't reason enough not to get too high or too low about what Buxton does in his first game, I'm not sure what is.

    One way Buxton could set his name in the stars is if he steals a base; since 1990, no BA top prospect has successfully stolen a base on his debut.

    No matter what he does, it's fairly clear that what happens when he does start has literally no effect on the rest of his career. Still, I don't think many Twins fans would say no to a duplicate of 2004 Joe Mauer.

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    I didn't go back and check, but hasn't he had an adjustment period at previous levels? I know he did when he first signed and he did at AA. Was there any level that he tore up right off the bat?

     

    If he struggles at first, we need to be patient.

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    Nice list.

     

    One way Buxton could set his name in the stars is if he steals a base; since 1990, no BA top prospect has successfully stolen a base on his debut.

     

    I remember shortly after Bryce Harper was called up, Cole Hamels welcomed him with a baseball in the ribs. "Welcome to the big leagues, kid." When Harper reached third base later in the inning, he stole home off Hamels straight from the delivery. "Nice to meet you too, Mr. Hamels."

     

    I expect so such drama surrounding Buxton today :)

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    Nice list.

    I remember shortly after Bryce Harper was called up, Cole Hamels welcomed him with a baseball in the ribs. "Welcome to the big leagues, kid." When Harper reached third base later in the inning, he stole home off Hamels straight from the delivery. "Nice to meet you too, Mr. Hamels."

    I expect so such drama surrounding Buxton today :)

     

    To be fair, and accurate, Byron Buxton is as talented as Bryce Harper, but Buxton is a completely different person.

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    To be fair, and accurate, Byron Buxton is as talented as Bryce Harper, but Buxton is a completely different person.

     

    I wonder how much of Harper's edge is what allows him to access his full potential. Irrespective of field, a lot of top performers walk around with a pretty serious chip on their shoulder.  

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    Nice list.

    I remember shortly after Bryce Harper was called up, Cole Hamels welcomed him with a baseball in the ribs. "Welcome to the big leagues, kid." When Harper reached third base later in the inning, he stole home off Hamels straight from the delivery. "Nice to meet you too, Mr. Hamels."

    I expect so such drama surrounding Buxton today :)

     

    I believe that game was on ESPN, too! That was a crazy sequence for sure and one heck of an introduction to the Bryce Harper for the casual baseball fan.

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    I didn't go back and check, but hasn't he had an adjustment period at previous levels? I know he did when he first signed and he did at AA. Was there any level that he tore up right off the bat? If he struggles at first, we need to be patient.

    E-Town numbers were pretty ordinary, but he's been pretty extraordinary ever since, when he was fully healthy and in the case of 2015, after he'd completely shaken off the rust.

     

    Immediate Superstar at A ball, here's his first month:

     

    .383/.504/.681/(1.185) OPS+ 225

     

    He had a "slow" start in his first month in A+ ball, showing "only" an .809 OPS and OPS+ of 129, but he really came on from that point, here's his full first 2 months line at Ft Myers (in the toughest MiLB for hitters):

     

    .337/.427/.493/(.919) OPS+ 164

     

    It's hard to hold 2014 against him or to use it as a gauge for his adjustment period to a new level, he never was really healthy again after sustaining his first wrist injury in ST, and of course, his season went completely off the cliff, injury-wise, from there.

     

    All that being said, I would look for the majority of his early hits starting out his career to be of the infield hit variety. The good news is that his career high in LD% has been this year, but the bad news is his contact numbers haven't been all that great overall. But... the contact #s and his BB% have taken a big spike upwards, like his other averages, over the last month.

     

    Long story short, I look for Buck's first hit to be deep in the hole at SS. And maybe a walk, plus a SB and run scored.

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    Look, I don't expect Buxton to hit the first pitch out of the park, like Rosario did. Any pitch in that first at bat will do. But really, what I'm looking for is his first steal of second. This kid has Ricky Henderson speed. He's gonna drive pitchers nuts knowing there's nothing they can do to stop him from taking bases. Having such a disruptive force on base will do wonders for whoever is behind Buxton in the lineup. That's why I want Buxton to bat ahead of Joe Mauer.

     

    I can practically see it now: Buxton on first, Mauer at bat. After two pitches, Buxton's on second. After four pitches, Buxton's on third. Mauer laces an easy line drive to the outfield, Buxton scores. We'll be seeing that so many times... 8-)

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    I didn't go back and check, but hasn't he had an adjustment period at previous levels? I know he did when he first signed and he did at AA. Was there any level that he tore up right off the bat? If he struggles at first, we need to be patient.

    I think it's safe to assume he'll have an adjustment period in the majors -- even Harper did after all -- but I think this season will be a learning experience and he'll be ready to show his talent next year and he'll still just be 22. 

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    I will only be satisfied with a cycle and a defensive web gem.

     

    Seems fair. Honestly, if he only has one web gem today, I think about sending him back to Cedar Rapids; pretty clear he has a lot to work on at that point. 

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