Every mention you see of Byron Buxton's transformation at the plate is inevitably followed by, "If he can just stay healthy."
After years of struggles with the bat, it appears that Buxton has finally figured it out offensively, bringing the talent he showed in the minors now to the majors and what made him the top prospect in baseball.
He was on pace for a historic 2021 season before a variety of injuries limited Buxton to just 61 games. Still, his .306/.358/.647 slash line from last year with a 171 OPS+ leaves fans hopefully that this is the year that Buxton can play 150 games+. If he can, Buxton will no doubt be in the MVP discussion and the Twins should be in the thick of a playoff spot.
So what does a full Buxton season look like? Where would it rank among the great seasons in Twins history. Well, lets speculate and calculate what that might look like.
Single-Season Twins Records
WAR - Rod Carew, 1977 - 9.7
Based on Baseball Reference WAR, this seems like the most likely team record to fall if Buxton stays healthy. He put up 4.5 WAR last season in just a third of a season (61 games). Over a full season, with the defense and base running, it seems possible that Buxton could have a 10 WAR season. How rare is that? Only 3 players have had a 10 WAR season over the past 20 years; Mookie Betts (2018), Mike Trout (2012 and 2016) and Barry Bonds (2002 and 2004). Going back further, there have only been 24 individual 10 WAR seasons since 1960 among 13 different players. 150 games of Bryon Buxton in 2022 would be awfully close.
Slugging Percentage - Nelson Cruz, 2019 - .639
Buxton had a .647 SLG last season in 235 at-bats compared to Nelson Cruz, who put up a franchise record .639 SLG in 2019 in 454 at-bats over 120 games at DH. Cruz obliterated the previous SLG record of Harmon Killebrew of .606 from 1961. Can Buxton sustain that power over a full season. His home run power has finally developed, hitting HR's in three straight at-bats this past weekend vs. Seattle. Given his speed, singles are stretched into doubles and triples??? may not be there. Why? I have heard it said that Buxton already has enough speed to score from second base on essentially any ball hit to the outfield, so why gamble for a triple? Buxton had 19 HR's and 22 doubles last year, but not a single triple.
On-Base Plus Slugging - Nelson Cruz, 2019 - .1.031
The SLG% record and OPS will be close and tied together. Cruz's 2019 was one of the greatest offensive season in Twins history and may have gone under the radar somehow. Buxton's OPS last year was 1.067, so he is certainly capable of putting together similar numbers over at least a 60 game stretch.
Defensive WAR - Kirby Puckett, 1984 - 3.3
Buxton had a 1.2 dWAR season last year and put up a career-high of 2.6 dWAR in his 140 game, 2017 season.
Runs Scored - Chuck Knoblauch, 140 - 1996
This one may be tough, but second place (Rod Carew, 128 runs in 1977) may be in play. If Buxton can reach base at around a 35 percent clip and have 550 plate appearances, that equates to 192 times on base. With All-Stars Jorge Polanco and Carlos Correa hitting behind Buxton, this one may be close. In 1996, Knoblauch reached base 197 times via hits, 98 times with walks and 19 times after being hit by a pitch. That totals 314 times, which is incredible.
Total Bases - Tony Oliva, 374 - 1964
Buxton had 152 total bases last season in 61 games. Over 150 games, that comes out to 373 total bases. Buxton already has 16 total bases in just four games this season to lead MLB.
Home Runs - Harmon Killebrew, 49 - 1964/1969
Only three players in Twins history have had a 40 home run season; Harmon Killebrew (7X), Brian Dozier (42 in 2016) and Nelson Cruz (41 in 2019). Buxton's career high in HR's was last year with 19. At the rate Buxton has hit HR's the past few seasons, a 30 HR season should be attainable and 40 isn't out of the question.
OPS+ - Rod Carew, 178 - 1977
Buxton OPS+ last season was 171. In 1977, Carew's OPS was 1.019. When factoring in the era, Buxton will likely need an OPS near 1.100 to achieve the same.
Regardless of what records Buxton sets or doesn't set this season, it was been a fun start to the season for the Twins center fielder. We may finally get what every Twins and baseball fan has been wanting. A full season of health for Byron Buxton.