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  • Twins Appear To Be All In On Buxton


    Nick Nelson

    Minnesota's 2015 season concluded with Byron Buxton stranded at third base. He had reached second on a two-base error to open the ninth inning and moved up on a groundout, but came short of scoring when Miguel Sano flied out to end the game and the season.

    The Twins went home. The Royals, who beat them that day, went on to win the World Series. Buxton looked ahead to an offseason of uncertainty. His location between third base and home plate at season's end was reflective of his time in Minnesota as a whole: close but not quite there.

    Had he shown enough during his debut to convince the brass that he was ready to stick?

    Image courtesy of Jonathan Dyer, USA Today

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    At the time, most would have probably guessed no. Buxton appeared overwhelmed at times during his introduction to the big leagues, striking out in 32 percent of his plate appearances and never really settling into a comfortable groove.

    Terry Ryan has admitted, with tinges of regret, that he rushed the 21-year-old to the majors out of necessity last summer. Factor in the commonly held belief, right or wrong, that former center field prospects such as Carlos Gomez and Aaron Hicks had their development impaired by a lack of minor-league seasoning, and no one could blame the front office for tentatively slotting Buxton at Triple-A, where he has a grand total of 59 plate appearances.

    Halfway through March, however, all evidence points to the contrary. It looks like Buxton has the Twins center field job all but locked up.

    What was shaping up to be one of the most compelling position battles this spring has turned out to be rather anticlimactic. As John wrote last week from Fort Myers: "This is clearly not a competition, at least not yet. It's Buxton's job to lose."

    The grip has only tightened in the week since that post. John noted at the time that Buxton had started four of the first six games in center; he has started on four of six days since, and the player spelling him has been Max Kepler instead of Danny Santana.

    That's a very positive sign for Buck, since Kepler is a likely early cut. Santana, who stood to be Buxton's primary competition in center, is clearly being groomed for a utility role. In the past week he has appeared in all three outfield spots and both middle infield spots.

    It's becoming plain to see that the Twins entered this camp intent on bringing Buxton north. And while you might not be wowed by his overall Grapefruit numbers (his .200 average and .561 OPS are almost identical to the marks he posted in Minnesota last year), he's showing the type of progress that reinforces this approach.

    On Sunday, Buxton had perhaps his best game yet this spring. He doubled and walked, and scored both times. He had a good day on the base paths, including a heads-up tag on a fly ball.

    That sort of stuff is all the Twins are looking for right now from their 22-year-old top prospect. It appears the collective assessment is that Buxton's best plan for learning to hit MLB pitching is to face MLB pitching. Even if that process is still playing out as we head into the regular season, his impact in the outfield and on the bases enables the Twins to let him learn on the job without hurting themselves much if at all.

    The narratives connecting Buxton to Hicks and Gomez are conveniently tidy but they've never been all that apt given that Buck is in another class entirely than either predecessor. He has quickly stopped being challenged at each level of the minors, and that's why every prospect publication remains bullish on his status as one of the game's absolute best young talents.

    I'm pleased to see that the Twins are ready to let that talent off the leash and don't seem inclined to let their resolve waver on the basis of a couple of dozen exhibition contests.

    I'm also excited by the idea of a Rosario-Buxton-Sano Opening Day outfield alignment, with Kepler waiting in the wings. Nowhere is the fruitfulness of Minnesota's pipeline more evident than in the outfield, which is bustling with young talent to an extent we've never before witnessed.

    Giddy up.

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    On Sunday, Buxton had perhaps his best game yet this spring. The box score doesn't jump out, but he singled and walked, and scored both times. He had a good day on the base paths, including a heads-up tag on a fly ball.

     

    Note, it was a double, not a single. But that only makes your point stronger.

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    Hey, either he can play baseball or he can't.  Everyone who scouts professionally has said he can play.  Really well.

     

    He can play defense, he can run, he can bunt.  He also has a good eye , and in MiLB, at least, he can hit.

     

    Let him play.  See what happens.  And enjoy it.

     

    He's a man now, let's live with the results.

     

     

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    I don't care about the box score or any stats in spring. I do care about the approach he brings to the plate. In the at bat that happened to go for a double, he patiently looked at the first four pitches. The first two were balls. The third was a strike on the corner that a good hitter gives the pitcher as strike one. The fourth was a good curve ball below the zone that he was able to recognize and check his swing. Ahead 3-1 he made great contact on a good pitch to hit. Had he lined out to the left fielder instead of doubling, it would not have changed the major league approach he brought to that plate appearance.

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    The message from the Twins most of the offseason, but especially strong since Twins Fest was that they all wanted Buxton to take the job and something strange would have to happen for it not to happen.

     

    Following the game, Molitor pointed out Buxton's better at bats. He actually said he had to talk to him about base running, when he didn't initially tag and go to 3B on a fly out to CF. But that's a teachable moment. 

     

    Buxton is a different person in camp this year that in the past, and he's bigger and stronger. There'll be some rough patches, no doubt, but he'll be alright.

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    Excellent article, as always, Nick, but I think it's presumptuous at this point to anoint Buxton as "in another class entirely" than Hicks and Gomez.

     

    Time will tell.

     

    Many first overall picks have failed to make good in the past. If he's not significantly better at the plate through April he will need further seasoning in AAA. And then time will tell again.

     

     

     

    Edited by ScrapTheNickname
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    Excellent article, as always, Nick, but I think it's presumptuous at this point to anoint Buxton as "in another class entirely" than Hicks and Gomez.

     

    Time will tell.

     

    Many first overall picks have failed to make good in the past. If he's not significantly better at the plate through April he will need further seasoning in AAA. And then time will tell again.

    2nd overall picks********** and Gomez is an All star, wouldn't say Buxton is on a different level. If Buck became Carlos Gomez i would be very content

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    Excellent article, as always, Nick, but I think it's presumptuous at this point to anoint Buxton as "in another class entirely" than Hicks and Gomez.

     

    Time will tell.

     

    Many first overall picks have failed to make good in the past. If he's not significantly better at the plate through April he will need further seasoning in AAA. And then time will tell again.

    Aaron Hicks and Carlos Gomez were both in the middle of top 100 lists when they came up.

     

    Byron Buxton has been a top 2 prospect for three years now. There's a big difference between top 10-20 guys and guys in the middle of the list.

     

    Buxton's talent is on a whole different level than Hicks. Gomez probably had close to the same amount of athleticism, but Buxton is a more professional hitter now than Gomez was when he was coming up.

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    Aaron Hicks and Carlos Gomez were both in the middle of top 100 lists when they came up.

     

    Byron Buxton has been a top 2 prospect for three years now. There's a big difference between top 10-20 guys and guys in the middle of the list.

     

    Buxton's talent is on a whole different level than Hicks. Gomez probably had close to the same amount of athleticism, but Buxton is a more professional hitter now than Gomez was when he was coming up.

    I'm hoping. Will be fun to watch his development.

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    Actually, the biggest problem I saw with Buxton last year was his base stealing. The guy seemed to rely entirely on his speed, rather than getting good leads and reading the pitcher's move. Even with his great acceleration, Buxton can't out-run a good professional catcher's throw if he has a six-foot lead and no read on the pitcher's moves. 

     

    I'm hoping Molitor can get Buxton looking a bit more clever than that. I've seen 12 year olds that had better timing stealing bases than Buxton. Of course, they needed better technique because they didn't have his blazing speed. 

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    He looked pretty bad in his strikeout yesterday too, so there's definitely some refinement needed.  On the flip side, as said by others, his double was a thing of beauty.  I think some time in AAA would serve him will personally, but you're right in that there isn't exactly competition.  Sweeney might be that darkhorse guy, but Buxton is clearly being given every opportunity to win the job.  The team clearly wants Buxton to win it.  Though at this point, I'm not sure he has.  Hopefully he improves on his early numbers over the next week or two. 

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    I still say the needs of Buxton outweigh the needs of the 2016 major league team. If TR and PM feel that AAA is what's best for his development then the Twins can use one of their other players as a placeholder in the meantime.

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    Actually, the biggest problem I saw with Buxton last year was his base stealing. The guy seemed to rely entirely on his speed, rather than getting good leads and reading the pitcher's move. Even with his great acceleration, Buxton can't out-run a good professional catcher's throw if he has a six-foot lead and no read on the pitcher's moves. 

     

    I'm hoping Molitor can get Buxton looking a bit more clever than that. I've seen 12 year olds that had better timing stealing bases than Buxton. Of course, they needed better technique because they didn't have his blazing speed.

     

    Biggest problem?

     

    Just my opinion, but .209/.250/.326 and continued injury concerns are both bigger problems than SB technique.

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    Biggest problem?

    Just my opinion, but .209/.250/.326 and continued injury concerns are both bigger problems than SB technique.

    This is also my concern, until he proves that he can play smarter and stay on the field, I'm going to cringe everytime he gets near the wall. Or Sano. I'd bet even money that he won't make it thru the season injury free.

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    I've never doubted Buxton's play in the field.  He's really something to watch.  But let's face facts:  who's the competition?

     

    I've always been a fan of what D. Santana did in 2014 as the Twins starting CF.  However, at this point in SP, it's pretty clear D. Santana is being considered as a utility player, only.    I'd like to see the Twins trade/release Danny so he can start anew.  And I kinda like Beresford on the bench more.

     

    With the only other competition being a guy who's already destine for AAA, there is no competition.  Buxton's AB's have been a lot better than the 1st few SP games and you can see the improvement over the past few.   It's kinda the ole "fish or cut bait" thing.  I'm now a believer that Buxton is the Twins starting CF for the future:  short or long

     

     

    Edited by HitInAPinch
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    In my opinion... It's crazy to do this without a safety net... but... the guy on the wire must be capable. 

     

    They've given the starting gig to lesser talent and a safety net that consisted of names like Mastroianni, Schaffer and Presley the last three years. They're used to working crazy by now I'd say.

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    Maybe the problem wasn't bringing him up, but bringing him up and not letting him play full time. I seem to remember him sitting an awful lot. Likely another mistake caused by the push to be the second WC spot. His history while brief is exceptionally consistent. Struggles early and acclimates! I don't think yo yoing him will work.

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    2nd overall picks********** and Gomez is an All star, wouldn't say Buxton is on a different level. If Buck became Carlos Gomez i would be very content

    Gomez has had a pretty weird distribution though. He is a two time all star. But 13 of his 23 WAR came in just two seasons (of 9). And about half of his WAR is dWAR.

     

    I think Buxton can be at least the defensive player that Gomez is and I think Buxton has the ability to put up a more consistent offensive production than Gomez has. I hope after 9 seasons Buxton has more oWAR than 12 or so. I think he will.

    Edited by tobi0040
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    Gomez has had a pretty weird distribution though. He is a two time all star. But 13 of his 23 WAR came in just two seasons (of 9). And about half of his WAR is dWAR.

    I think Buxton can be at least the defensive player that Gomez is and I think Buxton has the ability to put up a more consistent offensive production than Gomez has. I hope after 9 seasons Buxton has more oWAR than 12 or so. I think he will.

     

    Minors Career; 

     

    Gomez: .278/.340/.395

    Buxton: .301/.383/.489 

     

    Similarities between the 2; Center Fielders, Twins (former/current).  End list

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    The most important line of the entire article in my opinion was:

     

    "Buxton's best plan for learning to hit MLB pitching is to face MLB pitching."

     

    There is no point in letting him demolish inferior opponents, at some point he will have to play at the ML level and most likely struggle as he learns.  Might as well get it over with as soon as possible.

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    I endorse this decision. Throw him in the pool, let him learn how to swim.

     

    Seeing as batters are the reactionary part of the equation to the pitchers causation, I'm generally more in favor of tossing the pitchers into the pool to see if they can swim, but I'm not at all opposed to doing it with talented young hitters either.

     

    Buxton has had hiccups at every level before coming on strong. Last year's struggles seemed natural, and I would have put my money on him coming around somewhat last September had the team not put him on the bench for the playoff push.

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