Byron Buxton is without a doubt one of the most dynamic players in baseball, with an attractive power-speed combo that helps him excel on the plate and in the field. But he has played more than 92 MLB games in a single season in 2017 (140) only once in his career.

That fact must be taken into account. ” We wondered: What is the ceiling for a healthy Buxton?

When we questioned Buxton himself, he stopped.

“I didn’t really think about it,” Buxton said. “It’s a process of thinking more. Just go and play ball. I’m not ‘Can I stay healthy?’ That is, ‘How can we get to the playoffs and the World Series?’ Not looking too far ahead, but we have a team that can do it and we’re still doing well. ”

Even if he doesn’t think about it, we – and baseball fans everywhere – have it. Take a look at what has made Buxton so successful in recent years and what is involved in that excellent situation.

What makes him uniquely good

In Buxton it’s the ultimate power-speed combination, an electrifying way to play games. He is one of only three eligible players to score 90th percentile or higher this season in both barrel rate and sprint speed. Simply put, this means he’s ideal – and tough – communicates and runs fast.

Another thing that comes with this speed is its ability to occupy a significant space in the outfield. Only seven outfielders have averaged more outs than Buxton this season, and that’s a staggering figure, given the limited time he’s spent on the field and the fact that he’s been in the position he was assigned to even when he was in the lineup. One-third of the heaters in 2022.

Being Byron Buxton, with all that talent, comes with high expectations. Signing a seven-year extension raises those expectations.

“I think right now, he’s exceeding that expectation,” Korea said. “He is a complete player. He can do it all. As a hitter right now, he can’t stop. It was fun to watch. It’s fun to talk to him and listen to what he has to adapt to become a hitter now. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. “

When Buxton debuted in 2015, who would have thought that his success would come in the form of today’s power-speed slugging monster?

Blessed with his immense five-tool skill, there are probably many imaginable ways to succeed in the one-time No. 2 overall pick, but when he first arrived in Twin Cities, the organization thought it would benefit him. And protection against destruction on the sidewalk.

Sure, he had some success in that, because his blistering wheel was in full display when he could get to base – but his OPS never went above .728 in those first four seasons, and a lot of his value came from defense. . And more importantly, Buxton admits he never thought he was such a player. It was not his game.

“I knew I wasn’t, slapping the ball and throwing it to the ground and running,” Buxton said.

He went on to say, “I did not fail until I reached the big leagues. “For me, what got me into the draft and what brought me into the big leagues. And that means being me myself, being me simple and [in the] Minor league, I wasn’t that much of a power hitter, but I wasn’t the kind of person to slap. Another one … the one I am now, is a line-drive heater. “

So, the first step is, as he describes, “manning up” and gaining control of his career before the 2019 season, becoming a line-drive hitter and emphasizing his pre-natural ability to hit the ball hard instead. Its declining percentage increased from .387 in those 19 seasons to .513 in ’19 – then to .577 in ’20, then to .647 in the last season.

“I’m just trying to get there and hit the line drive off the wall,” Buxton said. “Try to kill through it, not much. Just stick to that mentality. They just keep moving forward. “

This is the heater that he naturally feels, the version that feels right to him. He now has the opportunity to be a hitter in the big leagues for four seasons, realizing things, optimizing, refining.

Buxton’s current swing rate is close to the MLB average, 47.2%, but in 2015 (46.6%), behind his first year of 46-game tenure, it will be the second lowest of his career. This is significant for players who swing on 64.1% of pitches in 2020 and play more than 50% each year since 2016-21. That game is getting closer to him, especially on the first pitches, where his swing rate has dropped from 39.8% in ’21 and 31.2% from 51.1% in ’20.

Simply put, he is making good decisions on the plate, as can be seen from his swing-take numbers, where each individual pitch is given a value based on its result and they are added together. It was negative or negligibly positive each year until 2020. Last year 19 swing-tech runs. And he already has nine this year.

He has also done more damage against fastball in the last two seasons. After posting negative run values ​​against four-seamers in 2017-20, it was +8 against them in ’21 and is +5 so far this year.

“It’s still in progress, but it’s more fun for me to do it than to go there and be myself and go my way by 0-cure-4-because I don’t find it easy to do. “It’s the best thing for me to keep it simple, and as far as I’m concerned, my mindset, my mind, and I know it. As long as I’m simple and open, it allows me to get out of there and be myself,” Buxton said.

Current value creation plan

Whatever Buxton’s theoretical ceiling, no matter how dazzling his red-hot homer streaks may seem, let’s establish one thing: he won’t reach that ceiling this season. The fact that he and the Twins are managing carefully in an effort to ensure that he has not been the latest in a long line of injuries that have sidelined him over the past few years, while he is playing with a knee injury.

And that’s fine when it comes to Buxton! As we’ve established, it’s so valuable to the Twins on a per-game basis (even if it’s DHing) that the slight downside of losing some maintenance games here and there is, for the most part, more than the downside of losing them altogether. .

“We have a process, I’m trying to stand on the field and play 100 games,” Buxton said last month. “Then you see it, who knows?” But we have that, here’s a plan, and we’re going to stick to it. Anything else, outside of that, doesn’t really matter to us, so it’s all about winning. “

There was a lot of excitement from the fans after Buxton made that comment and many raised the issue of mentioning “100 games” as the target. Here’s the thing: The 100-game season is undoubtedly a top-end result for Buxton, as he has only reached that point once in his first seven seasons. The 100-game season for Buxton will also make him one of the most valuable players in baseball.

Let’s take that out conservatively. Based on its current totals and playing time, Buxton is fast for 6.9 WAR in 116 games, per fangraph. Only five position players have fought at least one season since 1900 during which they have played 116 or fewer games: 1994 Jeff Bagwell (7.8), 1981 Mike Schmidt (7.8), 1955 Ted Williams (7.1), 1923 Rogers Hornsby (7.1). ) And 1994 Frank Thomas (7). Talk about a list of key names.

The Twins / Senators position will also be matched for the 14th-highest battle in a single season of the player – regardless of playing time. The only Twins position player to reach or exceed this figure since 1989 was 2009 Joe Maur (8.4 in 138 games).

What does play time look like? It consists of scheduled break days, approximately once every three or four games. According to manager Rocco Baldeli, the Twins go into every series to predict when they will give Buxton a recovery day. Regular days in the DH also help, rather than the center field – and now Buxton’s game is more offensively oriented and less predictable on his defense, so his value doesn’t suffer as much.

The last part of Cody is that his preparation and mindset is now more advanced than ever. As he recently mentioned to the MLB Network, he now has a routine in the hot tub to build his muscles for sports wear. He no longer runs every ball on the field at full speed or abandons the body for a daredevil catch on the wall. He’s trying to be smart about his preparation and decision-making, he says, knowing the importance of his presence to his colleagues.

“There’s a rush, and there’s a false retort,” Korea said. “The pitcher has a ground ball where he’s just going to flip it first and you go to 4.0 or 4.1 [seconds] First, it’s just a fake retort. There is no need for that.

“For him, the thing is I. [speak] Most of all, I’d rather see a ball hit the wall than you go to IL for two months because you crashed into it. Just playing smart. Knowing how important he is to this lineup and how important he is to this club, he is doing a really good job with it. So he gets it. He understands that. As a DH or center field, it is now close to what we need from him every day. ”

So, what is that ceiling?

Note that this is one of seven years, the $ 100 million extension Buxton has signed for a long-term stay in Minnesota. He is only 28 years old, he is in his prime. If this precaution is maintained in ’22 and he stays on the field, then he has plenty of time to apply what he has learned in the full season in the following years.

That would be great for Buxton, for the Twins – and for the game of baseball.

Buxton’s baseball reference war from the last two seasons, if seen per 650 plates – a normal full season – is 9.6. With Mike Trout (four times) and Mookie Bates (2018) and Bryce Harper (2015) among the position players since 2010, the number is entirely in the other category, not to mention many Cooperstown Enshreen before.

“Staying healthy for the rest of his career, he’s a potential Hall of Famer,” Korea said. “But MVP, of course. He’s going to win a lot of them. He’s so talented.”

In his last 162 games played, he has a .271 / .320 / .603 slashline, including 51 homers and 95 RBIs. The twins in that game are 97-65.

This level of performance, sustained throughout the season, is Buxton’s true limit? Anything else to unlock, somewhere in there?

“Who knows?” Buxton said. “I don’t know. Feeling better now.”