By Eddie Pannone
PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Baseball fans across the country have heard about Byron Buxton’s potential ever since the Minnesota Twins drafted the outfielder number two overall in 2012. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the 22-year old despite being the number one prospect in baseball for three years. He has dealt with various, unlucky injuries throughout his young career including a thumb sprain just two weeks into his first big league stint last year.
Fully healthy, Buxton started the season as the Twins’ centerfielder but struggled making contact. He hit just .156 and struck out in half of his at bats, leading the organization to option the future star to the Rochester Red Wings.
With the Red Wings, Buxton has some of the pressure lifted off his shoulders as he works through some of his problems. A true five-tool talent, there isn’t anything he can’t do well on the baseball field and has proven that during his time in the minors. The big-leagues are a different animal, and pitchers have been able to exploit the few weaknesses he has. While in Triple-A, focusing on reducing his strikeout rate and finding ways to get on base consistently to utilize his blazing speed is what he’ll be doing.
“It is getting better,” Buxton said of his strikeouts and approach at the plate. “I’m swinging at better pitches in the zone and being aggressive. Most of my strike outs here have been on pitches in the zone. I’m just trying to limit them and put the ball in play a little more.”
That was on display this weekend at McCoy Stadium, where his Red Wings took on the PawSox for a four game set. It was especially noticeable Sunday afternoon. Buxton struck out on a changeup from rehabbing Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez. Two at-bats later he took that same pitch to the opposite field for a laser home run. His extra base power has been on display much more often since being sent down and is getting back to what made him the number one overall prospect.
“You have to go up there with a solid approach and stick with it. Slowly, it is coming back for me. I just try and stay gap to gap and put good swings on the ball. If it goes out it goes out. As the leadoff hitter I’m just up there trying to get on base and let my teammates drive me in.”
Perhaps we have all been spoiled with the amount of young talent that has come up over the last few years that we expect a talented youngster to come up and produce right away. That isn’t fair when we are talking about the highest level of baseball. For those even remotely concerned about Buxton, just remember that Mike Trout hit .220 in his first taste of the big leagues and that ended up working out just fine. More at bats and more experience will go a long way for Buxton, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if this is his last stint in the minors.