Byron Buxton was believed by many prognosticators to be a generational talent when the Twins selected him second overall (behind Carlos Correa) out of Appling County High School during the 2012 draft.
He struggled as an 18-year-old in his first professional season before slashing a ridiculous .334/.424/.520 with 12 homers, 77 RBI and 55 stolen bases in 125 games between Class-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers as a 19-year-old in 2013.
The next year was basically a lost season for him, as he missed a considerable amount of time due to injury and struggled when he was able to stay on the field.
He was still considered by most to be the top prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2015 season. After dominating the competition again at two minor league levels, Buxton earned his first promotion to the big leagues. His 46-game audition with the Twins was underwhelming at best, hitting a meager .209/.250/.326 with two homers, six RBI and a 44/6 K/BB ratio in 138 plate appearances.
Nevertheless, his star burned extremely bright. Many players, even future superstars, struggle in their first exposure to big league pitching. The prevailing wisdom was that he’d return to the Twins to start the 2016 season and begin to deliver on his massive potential.
Buxton won the starting center fielder’s job and was going to be an everyday player to begin the 2016 season. To take pressure off of him offensively, the Twins planned to bat him at the bottom of the lineup so he could focus on playing his gold glove caliber defense in center, and anything that he provided at the dish would be a bonus.
He still wasn’t ready for prime time though. In 17 games he hit an anemic .156/.208/.289 with a comical 24/2 K/BB ratio in only 49 plate appearances. He was sent back to the minor leagues for more seasoning in late April. Buxton would return in May and stick with the club through August, but that 46 game sample wasn’t any better. There he hit .204/.257/.322 with one homer and a 56/11 K/BB ratio in 169 plate appearances.
The third time looked to be the charm though. When Buxton rejoined the Twins as a September call-up, he looked like a completely different player. One much more comfortable at the dish. Over the final 29 games of the season, he performed like the budding superstar that everyone had expected heading into the season, slashing .287/.357/.653 with nine homers and 22 RBI in 113 plate appearances.
The fantasy community certainly took notice of his late-season surge. Buxton was a very popular commodity in 2017 drafts, finishing with an average draft position around 133, which placed him inside the top 30 outfielders.
Once again, the expectations were sky high and once again, Buxton floundered. This time though, the Twins let him take his lumps at the big league level. Prior to the All-Star break, Buxton was hitting just .216/.288/.306 with five homers, 16 RBI, 16 swipes and an 87/25 K/BB ratio across 283 plate appearances.
In the first game back after the break, he suffered a left groin strain that would keep him on the shelf until the beginning of August. Since his return though, he has emerged.
Entering play on Sunday, Buxton had hit .304/.340/.543 with five homers, 16 RBI and seven stolen bases. He upped the ante on Sunday by having the best day of his career.
Buxton got the Twins on the board with an RBI single in the first inning. He then crushed a low line drive over the wall in left field for a two-run homer off of Joe Biagini in the fourth inning. Spoiler alert, he wasn’t finished.
Buxton clobbered a solo homer off of Matt Dermody leading off the seventh inning, giving him the first multi-homer game of his career. And while leaving the yard twice in a game is nice, doing so three times is exponentially more impressive. That’s just what he did his next trip to the dish when he launched the first pitch he saw from Tim Mayza into the stratosphere to left field.
All told, he finished the afternoon 4-for-5 with three homers, four runs scored and five RBI. He also swiped his 24th base of the season in the contest.
He’s already among the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball. The 23-year-old’s bat appears to have finally caught up.
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Fifty is Nifty
Giancarlo Stanton continued his assault on National League pitching on Sunday, demolishing a go-ahead two-run homer off Clayton Richard in the eighth inning that propelled the Marlins to a 6-2 victory over the Padres.
The home run was his 50th of the season, putting him into rarefied air historically. He’s just the 30th player in MLB history to reach the milestone. He’s just the sixth to get to that mark before the end of August.
Stanton is the first player to cross the 50-homer plateau since Chris Davis did so in 2013 and the first National League slugger to do so since Prince Fielder smashed 50 homers for the Brewers in 2007.
To say that he has been locked in at the plate in the month of August would be a massive understatement. Stanton went 3-for-3 with a homer and a double, and he also drew a walk on Sunday. Since the calendar flipped to August, he’s hitting .394 (37-for-94) with 17 home runs and 35 RBI.
The 17 home runs in the month of August tie the National League record for a month and is just one behind the Major League mark achieved by Rudy York of the Tigers in 1937.
Opposing manager Andy Green could only marvel at Stanton’s impressive display of power over the weekend. When asked after the game, Green admitted, "He looks about as locked in as anybody I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of seeing Barry (Bonds) years ago."
These are no longer meaningless games that Stanton is winning for the Marlins either. With Sunday’s win, their fourth consecutive victory, they are now 17-8 in the month of August and have pulled three games over the .500 mark for the season. That puts the Marlins just 4 ½ games behind the Diamondbacks for the final Wild Card berth in the National League.
It has also earned Stanton strong consideration for the National League MVP award. With this surge, he’s now hitting .296/.389/.670 on the season with his 50 home runs and career-best 108 RBI. The Marlins’ home crowd showered him with MVP chants as he did a curtain call following Sunday’s game-changing blast. At this point, he has to be considered the favorite for the award.
Hoskins Homers Again
Hoskins belted a solo homer off Koji Uehara in the eighth inning on Sunday, giving him 11 home runs in his first 18 MLB games. No one else in the history of the game has accomplished that feat. It’s a number that he inexplicably keeps extending.
Hoskins has now homered in five consecutive games and in eight of his last nine. The only game during that stretch that he didn’t leave the yard was the second game of a doubleheader, so he has actually gone deep in eight consecutive days that the Phillies have played.
Hoskins also did some work with the leather in this one, making a nifty sliding catch that started a triple play in the fifth inning.
The MLB record for most consecutive games with a home run is eight. The longest such streak this season belongs to Giancarlo Stanton who did so in six straight. Hoskins will look to match that when he takes on Lucas Sims and the Braves on Monday.
American League Quick Hits: Danny Duffy is expected to miss just one start after an MRI confirmed that he has no structural damage to his UCL… Victor Martinez landed on the disabled list for the second time this season due to an irregular heartbeat… Miguel Sano (shin) has still yet to resume baseball activities, though he has reported feeling better… Jackie Bradley (thumb) is expected to return from the DL when first eligible on Saturday… Carlos Carrasco struck out eight over seven shutout innings as the Indians routed the Royals… Francisco Lindor clubbed his 24th homer to pace the offense there… Masahiro Tanaka punched out 10 over seven innings of one-run ball to beat the Mariners… Lucas Giolito struck out four over seven shutout frames in a win over the Tigers… Logan Morrison crushed a pair of home runs, including a go-ahead blast in the 10th inning as the Rays beat the Cardinals. He now has 31 long balls on the season… Brian McCann plated four runs, including three on a go-ahead bases-clearing triple in the eighth, as the Astros rallied to defeat the Angels…Jose Altuve slugged his 20th homer in the loss… Matt Chapman had three hits, including his 10th homer as the A’s outlasted the Rangers… Blake Treinen recorded his 10th save and looks secure in the ninth-inning role for the Athletics.
National League Quick Hits: Jedd Gyorko was placed on the 10-day DL with a right hamstring strain. He’s expected to return at some point this season… Addison Russell (foot) will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Monday… Matt Harvey (shoulder) is scheduled to rejoin the Mets’ rotation on Friday against the Astros… Adam Frazier was lifted from Sunday’s game due to right hamstring discomfort… Tyler Mahle suffered defeat at the hand of the Pirates in his big league debut Sunday, allowing three runs on four hits over his five innings… Jon Gray fanned seven over six shutout innings in a victory over the Braves… Jake McGee closed that one out for the Rockies and seems to have taken over the closer’s role in Colorado… Patrick Corbin shut out the Giants on five hits over seven innings in another impressive victory… Paul Goldschmidt crushed a three-run homer as part of back-to-back-to-back shots with J.D. Martinez and Daniel Descalso as part of a nine-run eighth inning for the D’Backs against the Giants. Martinez homered twice in the contest... Clayton Kershaw (back) will return from the disabled list to start on Friday against the Padres.