Don’t look now but former #1 prospect Byron Buxton is finally starting to heat up. His career so far has been a disappointment as he has not lived up to his potential. Last season following a mid-season demotion to triple A, Buxton came up and hit .287/.357.653 with a 165 wRC+. This was the Buxton the Twins thought they drafted. With the Twins deciding to stick with him and play him every day this year, he has struggled his way to a .218/.292/.311 line and a 62 wRC+. Since the calendar turned to July, Buxton has been heating up. He is hitting .387 with a 165 wRC+ and 3 stolen bases. Let’s explore what he is doing differently.
What could be contributing to his recent success is his adjustment to his swing. Look at his swing from the first week of season compared to one just yesterday.
On the left is from the first week of the season and on the right, is his at bat yesterday against the Astros. It can be noticed that he has done away with his leg kick. Many hitters have either added or eliminated a leg kick and found success with that adjustment. His strike out rate, though still not great, is down from 32% to 23% since the start of the month. He is chasing much less. His out of zone swing percentage was at 31%, but since the start of July is down to 23%. Buxton’s whiff rate is also down from 14% to 9%. Granted this is still a very small sample, but it seems that this change is making a difference.
The Twins need Buxton to perform to his potential if they have any hope of finding post season success. Sano is having an all-star caliber season and Berrios is starting to come into his own. All they need is for Buxton to have success. When it comes down to it he needs to figure out a way to strikeout less and put more balls in play. He has great speed and can be a nightmare for pitchers and opposing defenders on the base paths. Some of it may be phycological too. As hitters go into slumps they may watch countless hours of film, do extra work in the cages, and consult coaches non stop. Buxton has been in a career long slump and at some point, it becomes a head game knowing he isn’t becoming the player the world expected from him. When things start going well hitters forget about their slumps all together and the game becomes much easier. The Twins need Buxton to get to that point.