Baseball fans have been waiting for Byron Buxton to breakout for a few years now. The former number two overall pick in the 2012 draft has remained a case of tremendous raw talent with below average results. The lone exception being defense where Buxton has been consistently a plus player. Early in 2019, it appears as if maybe baseball fans are finally getting their wish as they are seeing a more complete Buxton day in and day out.
The Appling County HS product came out of a stint in Minor League Baseball where all he did was dominate. Throughout the 2016 and 2017 seasons he saw increasing Major League Baseball action where he showed flashes of the potentially brilliant player he could be. Then 2018 happened, and plenty of people pumped the brakes on the Buxton hype train with even more giving up on Buxton altogether. Maybe Buxton was a glove only center fielder? It certainly seemed like a possibility following a year where he slashed .156/.183/.200 for a DRC+ of 57 and bWAR of 0. His FRAA of 1.4 was a disappointment compared to what he seemed to be capable of, and Buxton himself seemed like nothing more than a soon to be failed Minnesota Twins Prospect.
So far in 2019, it seems like Buxton’s talent has finally started to display itself on a regular basis. He’s playing regularly, his FRAA of 3.0 and OAA of 4 show that his fielding is back to being a plus. Mainly though Buxton is becoming an offensive force. He’s currently slashing .258/.310/.473 for a DRC+ of 111. His Spd of 9.6 remains well in the elite category, but speed alone isn’t what Buxton is producing this season. He’s making quality contact and squaring up the baseball. His Barrel% of 8.7 is the highest of his career and his Launch Angle of 23.2 is almost ten degrees better than his previous career mark. Buxton is lifting the ball more, and when he doesn’t lift it he’s hitting the ball harder than before while still possessing the elite speed that allows him to create infield singles, turn singles into doubles, and doubles into triples.
Buxton hasn’t changed much when it comes to his approach. Looking at footage his mechanics are relatively similar, and he’s still swinging at the same pitches. He’s simply making better contact when he does connect with the ball. There is still the fear of regression, as evidenced by his .232 xBA, but the regression isn’t being predicted to be as severe as what he has experienced in the past. That being said, I don’t see much of a reason to believe Buxton will regress that much. He may stabilize a little, but it appears as if Buxton has finally broken out for good.
Lead photo courtesy of Dylan Buell – Getty Images