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  • Is Byron Buxton Baseball's Best Player?


    Cody Christie

    Minnesota locked up Byron Buxton to a long-term deal this winter, and it looks like the Twins made a brilliant investment. After a torrid start to the season, is he in the conversation to be baseball's best player?

     

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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    Fans have seen this game changing ability before from Byron Buxton. Last April, he started hot in the season's first month as he hit .427/.466/.897 (1.363) with eight doubles and eight home runs in 18 games. MLB named Buxton the American League Player of the Month, and he had arguably the best offensive month in team history. It was hard to imagine him playing at a higher level, and then the 2022 season began. 

    Over the weekend, Buxton showed his value across multiple games, including some dramatic moments. On Saturday, he went 4-for-4 and reached base in all five plate appearances as the Twins won a blowout. Sunday's game was a nail-biter, and Buxton left the fans happy as he tied the game with a home run in the 7th before a massive three-run walk-off shot in extra-innings.  

    One weekend series doesn't qualify someone to be baseball's best player, but plenty of other signs point to Buxton's greatness. His six home runs tie him for the MLB lead, and he has over 20 fewer at-bats than the other players at the top. His 1.361 OPS would lead all of baseball by close to 200 points, but he doesn't have enough plate appearances to appear on the leaderboard. Baseball's leaders in slugging percentage are tied at .727, but Buxton's OPS is .946 through Sunday's game. 

    At the season's start, MLB Network counted down baseball's top-100 players right now. Buxton ranked as baseball's 39th best player on that countdown, a 52-spot jump from the beginning of the 2021 season. At that time, he was directly behind players like Nick Castellanos, Shane Bieber, and Brandon Woodruff. With his start to the season, he has to move up the list, but would it be enough to get to the top?

    Players at the top of the list include multiple former MVPs and other budding superstars. Shohei Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, is coming off a season where he did amazing things as a two-way player. Mike Trout is widely considered the best player of this generation and a perennial MVP candidate. Bryce Harper is the reigning NL MVP, and he continues to live up to the hype surrounding him as an amateur. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto are two of the other highly ranked players that have achieved a lot at a young age. 

    So far this season, many of these top players haven't been able to do what Buxton has done on the field. Ohtani is hitting .206/.265/.397 (.662), and he's posted a 4.40 ERA in three starts. Trout was limited to 36 games last season, but he is back to his old ways so far in 2022. Out of qualified players, he leads the AL in OPS and SLG. Harper has posted an OPS of over 1.000 in his two MVP seasons, but this year he has a .766 OPS while still leading the NL in runs. As expected, Soto leads baseball in walks and gets on base nearly 43% of the time. All of these players are great, but none may be able to impact the game quite like Buxton.

    At this early juncture, Trout is the lone top player producing at his expected level. Other players off to hot starts include Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and Wander Franco. There is a lot of season left to separate one player from another, but it's clear that Buxton is playing at an otherworldly level. 

    Do you think he is baseball's best player? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    He isn't there, yet.  He has all the tools to be the best player in baseball.  I think he just has to stay healthy this year and we will see him win the MVP.  He is the best defensive centerfielder in the game and his bat is looking elite when he is on the field.

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    Great player yes.  Great month of April yes.  But he is not the best player in baseball.  He may be the best at this short moment in time but he needs to prove it over playing a full season.  He may wind up being the best and I hope so.  Unfortunately his injury history has greatly held him back.  If the Twins have any chance to be a contender they need him for the entire season. He is awesome to watch.  I'm glad the Twins locked him into a long term deal.

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    He's "the best player in the world" until he isn't.

    Will this be true for two weeks? Two months? Two years? I absolutely love watching everything he does. For so many reasons, I wish him the best, most of all because of the quote below. Every Minnesotan should be cheering for this young man:

    "This is our home. For my kids, they’re a part of Minnesota. We can put our boys through school and not really have to worry about it. I love the city. I love the fans. I love the organization. They were the first ones that gave me a chance to become who I am today. So for me, there’s a lot of loyalty to this. That’s how I was raised.”

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    2 hours ago, JDubs said:

    Yes

    Not until he can stay on the field! One of the best when playing. But there is a reason he doesn't qualify for some of those categories!! Can't help from the bench. Twins are 8-8 because he was out.

     

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    He is best baseball player in the world. No one can do what he does on a regular basis defense, hitting, hitting with power, speed and savy on the bases & field.

    What I really don't understand is what took this FO so long to extend him. Buck wanted to stay in MN, how many super stars want to come to MN. Sign such a owner friendly contract. FO reason was that Buck wanted a no-trade clause, why would we want to trade him? It took a loud out cry from the fans to finally get them off their butt. God bless Byron Buxton.

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    I don't know if he's "the best"...that's for someone smarter than I am to determine. No doubt...he's damn good when he's out there. All I know is, when he's in the line up, the team is significantly better than when he isn't. If he could somehow overcome all the injuries and stay healthy for a full season...or several full seasons...it would be a lot of fun to watch. 

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    I have no idea how to truly compare and rank players. Does he the best player on the twins - that's easy of course he is. But we have a lot of great players around the league they all have their own unique qualities that make them valuable to their teams. I'm just glad we have him but would not attempt to rank him

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    It's too soon this year to be sure, and he hasn't had a full season playing like this, but I'm only bringing up those factors to pretend I'm evaluating him objectively and not getting carried away in the sheer joy of the moment. Yes, of course he is the best player.

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    His defense has always been primary to the conversation around him, but it is time to acknowledge his bat as his most precious asset. His defense has always been a marvel, of course. But his bat is even better and more important to the team now, Pitchers are now stressed out by his presence and it's affecting the way they pitch to the hitters in front of him. Chicago media right now is livid with LaRussa giving Buxton an attempt to beat the White Sox in the 10th. And he is doing all this in a time where pitchers have a cocktail of advantages over hitters with the ball, humidors, the new rosin, 28 man rosters, etc. 

     

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    50 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

    He is best baseball player in the world. No one can do what he does on a regular basis defense, hitting, hitting with power, speed and savy on the bases & field.

    What I really don't understand is what took this FO so long to extend him. Buck wanted to stay in MN, how many super stars want to come to MN. Sign such a owner friendly contract. FO reason was that Buck wanted a no-trade clause, why would we want to trade him? It took a loud out cry from the fans to finally get them off their butt. God bless Byron Buxton.

    This. If he wouldn’t have signed such a team friendly deal I’m convinced he would be gone. I hope he he hits his incentives and gets LOTS of the Pohlads money. 

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    I think that it doesn't really matter in the end.  All that MVP vote would do, is prove/validate to the rest of the baseball world what we Twins fans (and anyone who really knows baseball) already know...  Buck is one of the most physically gifted baseball players on the planet. 

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    All depends on how you view greatness vs sample size.     If you took the best pitcher in history (Koufax?) and only took his best 3 months would he be the best pitcher in baseball for those three months?     If you only had Babe Ruth's best 3 months would you not agree he was the best player in baseball for those three months?    If you extrapolate Buxton's 71 games over the last two seasons to a 162 game rate his 13 WAR would be 2nd in the history of baseball to Babe Ruth's age 28 season.    I remember Morneau's monster half a season in 2010 where he batted .345 and was easily on track for MVP.   His WAR extrapolated for 162 games was 9.4 or 3.6 less than Buxton's rate.    I don't know how to data mine smaller periods but who else has had a 5.7 WAR over any stretch of  71 games?  Maybe Trout.   Maybe Barry Bonds.?

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    25 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

    In his last 110 games he has put up 7.8 WAR with 30 doubles, 38 homers, .336 OBP, .651 OPS, .990 OPS (If I did the math correct, but it should be close), so when healthy he is one of the best players on the planet.

    Lets hope he stay healthy.

     

    651 slg? 990 ops?

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    1 hour ago, MN_ExPat said:

    I think that it doesn't really matter in the end.  All that MVP vote would do, is prove/validate to the rest of the baseball world what we Twins fans (and anyone who really knows baseball) already know...  Buck is one of the most physically gifted baseball players on the planet. 

    There are 8 million more reasons why it matters aside from validation. Get that money, Buck!

    https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/minnesota-twins/byron-buxton-17603/

    • Annual MVP Bonuses:
      1st: $8M
      2nd: $7M
      3rd: $6M
      4th: $5M
      5th: $4M
      6th-10th: $3M

     

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    1 hour ago, Sconnie said:

    651 slg? 990 ops?

    In 2020 he only walked twice in 130 at bats, and 13 in 254 in 2021, and twice this year in 37 at bats, he could work on that.

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    When he is healthy, I would say he is one of the best overall, when you include his base stealing/running, and defense.  His double the other day was a single for just about every other player, but he knew the right fielder would be throwing toward home, and even when hitting the cut-off Buck got all the way to 2nd without a throw.  It was crazy, and really should be talked about more how good a play he made there.  99% of guys would have just jogged out to 1st and maybe round it just in case the throw was getting airmailed.  However, now teams will have to decided, should we throw just to 2nd and not even think about drawing a throw home because Buck will go to 2nd even if you throw to cut. 

    The question for the last couple years is can he stay on the field.  The fact that he got hurt sliding into a base really raises concerns. Hopefully he will be on the field for 150 games because he is a huge difference maker. 

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    As someone who has followed this team since Opening Day '61 I have worshiped #3, watched #6 do amazing things with pitches no where near the zone, was in awe of the magic in #29's Silver bat and of course relished the overall wonder of #34 and I don't say this lightly. #25 is the most gifted player ever to don a Twins uniform.

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