Will the 2021 season finally be the breakout one for outfielder Byron Buxton? After being drafted second overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 draft, Buxton’s career so far has been a frustrating one because he has not yet lived up to his potential.
Considered the Next Great Twins Player
Buxton is one of the most gifted athletes in the game today. He has been called the next great Twins outfielder and is already being compared to Torii Hunter, Tony Oliva, and Kirby Puckett. He has demonstrated to his teammates, opposing players, and the fans that he plays the game the right way. With all that, he still hasn’t shown why he was picked number two.
What’s holding him back from being great can be attributed to all the injuries he has had during his career. Since 2015, when he made the Twins roster, he has missed significant playing time each season. In 2015 he sprained left thumb and only played in 46 games. The 2016 season saw a knee contusion and back spasms. He played in 92 games. He played 140 games in 2017, but dealt with a groin strain and migraines. In 2018 he played in only 28 games due to migraines, a fractured toe, and a strained wrist.
Then in 2019, he had a wrist contusion along with a concussion and a left shoulder dislocation. This was followed up with labrum surgery. He played in only 87 games. Buxton even saw limited play in the 2020 abbreviated season. An ankle injury and shoulder inflammation meant he played in only 39 of the 60 games.
He also has an issue at the plate, a problem with strikeouts. This strikeout problem, unfortunately, has kept him from being an elite hitter. Hitting big league pitching is hard enough, but for a hitter like Buxton — who struggles with the low-and-in or low-and-away pitches — it plagues him. When pitchers know that a hitter struggles in that area, they exploit the hitter, and that’s what is happening with Buxton.
The good news is that there has been an improvement with Buxton on his swing. That can be attributed to a better understanding of which pitches to swing at and which pitches he should lay off. He also has a better understanding of where the pitch will be in the zone.
Hitting is a skill that takes lots of time and experience. We have seen Buxton make the necessary adjustments. The coaches have worked with him on a better approach and he seems more disciplined with putting the ball in play. They have also they instilled in Buxton that his speed will also get him his hits.
Potential is There
The potential is there, and he has the skills and ability to be a five-tool MLB player. He is one of the fastest players on the base paths. For his defense, the speed he has allows him outstanding range and he makes tremendous catches. His arm is above average, and he can throw a runner out. All of those skills have won him a Gold Glove.
His bat control has increased as he has adjusted to knowing more of what the pitchers are going to do. Though he was never considered to be a home run slugger, the Twins would like to see 25 to 30 a year from him.
There’s no doubt that Buxton loves the game and plays it with passion. He is a player who hustles out ground balls, dives for balls, and takes away base hits. He has the ability to do anything you can ask of a baseball player on the field. Almost as extraordinary as his rare physical gifts is his demeanor and character, which makes him a leader in the clubhouse.
There’s no question that Buxton can change the game on both sides of the ball, as seen with his remarkable catches and his speed on the bases. However, the flashes of greatness have been for only a brief number of games and not with consistency.
Byron Buxton Needs a Full Season for a Breakout
For the Twins to win their third straight American League Central title and stop that 17 straight game losing streak in the playoffs, they need a full-season from Buxton. When healthy in 2020, he was easily the team’s best overall player. He was showing his power stroke, batting average, and OPS.
For Buxton to finally breakout he needs to remain healthy, challenge himself to strikeout less and put more balls in play. He has that great speed which will be terrifying for the opposing teams.
Will 2021 be the season we see Buxton take over and stay healthy?
Embed from Getty Images