If Regular Season Byron Buxton Looks Like Spring Training Byron Buxton… Watch Out

Byron Buxton Minnesota Twins
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Opening week for Major League Baseball is finally upon us, and the Minnesota Twins are coming off their most successful season in recent franchise history, thanks to an October that ended the longest playoff drought in North American sports.

And, outside of some key departures from the starting rotation, including Cy Young candidate Sonny Gray, the Twins are returning most of their 2023 team this summer. That’s why the Twins are media favorites to repeat as Champions in a down AL Central.

So, outside of some hostile feelings toward an ownership group that cut payroll during such an important time in organizational history, the vibes are pretty darn good surrounding our favorite baseball team. And a one very big reason for that optimism is the health of center fielder, Byron Buxton.

Minnesota Twins Spring Training is over and Byron Buxton still looks good

byron buxton Minnesota Twins
Photo: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Buxton was limited to 85 games of DH-only duty last season, thanks to a lingering knee issue he has been dealing with for what feels like forever. But the procedure he underwent this offseason, an arthroscopic surgery to remove the plica in his knee, has him feeling closer to full-strength than he has in years.

When Buck announced he’d be taking to the outfield again in 2024, he was met with understandable skepticism, which has persisted throughout spring training. But two months later, he appears to have made it through the spring unharmed and he’s been everything he promised to be on the baseball field.

The former No. 2 overall pick is looking fast as ever, and he’s been smart and under control while playing center field, something he must carry into the regular season if he wants to remain in the lineup for most of the summer.

Not only that, but there have been reports out of Fort Myers that Buxton is much more chipper and… happier than he has been in recent spring trainings. And on top of all that positivity… Buxton has been raking at the plate.

Related: Twins’ Top Prospect Brooks Lee Reassigned to Minors; Needs Testing Done After Back Spasms

Another extra base hit in his final at bat Tuesday, before the team flies north to Kansas City for Opening Day, pushed Byron to 11-for-35 (.314) on the spring, with a home run, three doubles, two triples and an OPS that’s sniffing 1.000.

Another aspect that could be improved with a healthy Buck is the baserunning, and most notably stolen bases. The Twins were 24th in stolen bases last season with 86, with 46 of those coming from Willi Castro and Michael A. Taylor.

Last season Buxton recorded a top sprint speed of 29.3 ft/s (which wouldn’t even rank top 5 in his career), and that type of speed can change games. It could mean more runners in scoring position, more runs scored from 2nd and 1st base, more balls caught in the outfield… etc etc.

The league has made it easier for runners to steal bases, expanding base size and limiting times pitcher can throw over to a base, and those types of changes should give Buxton the opportunity to eat on the base paths. In fact, Buck has set a goal for at least 30 stolen bases this season.

Related: Byron Buxton Hits Two Triples and Homers in Spring Training Game vs Yankees

Byron has shown flashes of what we all know he can be throughout his career, a rare combination of power and speed at the plate, combined with platinum glove level defense in the outfield. Unfortunately, he has been hindered by multiple health issues and hasn’t played over 100 games since 2017.

A healthy Buxton is a top 5 center fielder in the league, and putting that next to full healthy seasons from Royce Lewis and Carlos Correa, along with a pitching staff that is still considered top-5 in baseball, should make the Twins a World Series contender this summer.

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