Byron Buxton is Heating Up, Don’t Let Him Catch Fire

Byron Buxton
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins were excited at the prospects of having a healthy Byron Buxton this season, and he started the year playing centerfield and on the Opening Day roster. It wasn’t until a May 1 flare up that he saw the injured list, but now back, he seems to be settling in.

Working with something of an all-or-nothing approach at the plate, Byron Buxton owned just a .501 OPS halfway through April. He was seeking the same power stroke that he has been using to yank pitches down the left field line, but contact was alluding him. 25 games since returning from the injured list, it’s the last week and a half that has been so encouraging.

Minnesota Twins need Byron Buxton to get going

With Carlos Correa earning Player of the Week honors, and Royce Lewis being otherworldly in his 12 games since returning for the injured list, Rocco Baldelli has his big three lineup talents all on the field together. Byron Buxton has been the one lagging behind in the production department, but facing Pirates, Rockies, and Athletics pitching, he’s gotten it going.

Over his last nine games, Buxton is 11-for-31 with a triple and a home run. Motoring around the bases for the three bagger, his knee soreness looks to have dissipated for the time being, and his .928 OPS is something the Twins would love have in the middle of their lineup, going forward. Maybe most encouragingly, Buxton owns a 5/2 K/BB across his last 34 plate appearances.

Related: Byron Buxton Speaks Candidly About Chronic Knee Injury

Excluding the Pittsburgh road series, Buxton has a 1.160 OPS with a 2/2 K/BB. Of course that’s just a 21 plate appearance sample size, but the Twins seeing any glimpses of the productive version of their centerfielder bodes well going into the heart of summer.

Byron Buxton has tweaks to make for Minnesota Twins

If Baldelli is going to see Buxton sustain this level of production, there are still a few more areas for him to dial in. Expecting the talented centerfielder to walk more isn’t going to happen, it’s just not part of his process. The 28% strikeout rate is his lowest mark in three years though, and even a slight boost in walks would go a long way.

Quality of contact could also use an improvement, and that obviously is a byproduct of plate discipline and pitch recognition. His exit velocity remains six miles slower than he averaged last year, and his barrel rate is probably 8% below where it reasonably should be expected.

Related: Carlos Correa was Voted Overrated by His Peers, Then He Put His Cape On

The results over the last week and a half have largely produced singles. If Buxton is going to provide a better ability to drive the baseball, it will result in more offensive output for Baldelli. Having Correa, Lewis, and Buxton all healthy and in the same lineup is a great thing. Getting the best out of each of them takes it to another level.

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