Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is The Buxton Era Beginning?

Photo Credit: Jordan Johnson, USA Today Sports
The Twins' schedule is slowly coming to an end and many fans might be turning away as the losses continue to mount. But while fans are averting their gaze, they could be missing the start of something special on the field.

After struggling through his first 100+ games, Byron Buxton might finally be putting together all the skills that made him one of baseball's best prospects. Is the Buxton Era beginning in Minnesota? 

Being able to adjust to pitching at baseball's highest level can be one of the toughest challenges. When the Twins drafted Buxton, a concern surrounding him was the fact that he played his entire amateur career in rural Georgia. Even with this background, he showed few hitting concerns as he moved through the Twins system. 

Buxton has dominated the upper levels of the minor leagues over parts of the last two seasons. In 2015, he hit .305/.367/.500 at Double-A and Triple-A. The 2016 season has been even better as his Triple-A OPS is up to .927 while hitting double digit home runs at a level for only the second time in career. All the signs were there but the transition to baseball's highest level wasn't smooth. 

Through his first 109 games, Buxton batted .199/.248/.319 while positing a 34.8% K%. Pitchers were overpowering him at the plate. There were sprinkles of positive signs but the overall numbers don't lie. Something had to change with the 22-year old uber prospect and maybe he finally found the cure for his big league blues. 

One of the biggest changes for Buxton this season might be the return of his leg kick. Minnesota tried to have Buxton cut back on this movement after drafting him. According to FanGraphs, the Twins organization has a "front foot down early" hitting approach. At the beginning of this season his leg kick wasn't there but throughout this season his leg kick has reemerged. 

Since being recalled on September 1, Buxton has looked like he might finally be hitting his stride at the big league level. Entering play on Wednesday, Buxton has gone 15-for-43 with five home runs and four doubles in his last 12 games. Obviously this isn't a huge sample size but the Twins are searching for small rays of hope during this mess of a season. 

It may be too early to declare the official start of the Byron Buxton era but he is certainly one of many reasons to watch the Twins as the season winds to a close. Minnesota's future is tied to Buxton's success. He will need to continue to make adjustments but we could be on the cusp of a new era for the Twins. 

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