Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Will 2021 Finally Be The Year That Byron Buxton Breaks Out?

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Byron Buxton has long been hyped, but injuries have helped to derail a true breakout from ever coming to fruition. The 2020 campaign was no exception, as he played in just 39 of the Twins’ 60 games, but when he was on the field the numbers help to support that a breakout is coming:

.254 (33-130), 13 HR, 27 RBI, 19 R, 2 SB

Obviously the power is what stands out, and while a 26.5% HR/FB is unlikely to be maintained the underlying metrics support that the power is there:

  • Exit Velocity – 91.2 mph
  • Launch Angle – 23.6
  • Brls/PA% – 9.6%

The Brls/PA% put him in a tie for the 18th best in the league, showing that he was squaring the ball up routinely. These numbers alone would get us excited, but they do come at a cost.

Buxton, generally known for his speed, has seen his flyball rate balloon in recent seasons (48.5% in ’19, 51.0% in ’20). That, when coupled with issues with popups (24.5% IFFB%) and a pull heavy approach (20.8% Oppo% for his career) it is going to make it nearly impossible to carry an elevated BABIP. Perhaps he’s better than last year’s .241, but he’s not going to carry the type of mark that we’d expect.

Then there’s his approach, as he posted a 26.7% strikeout rate and 1.5% walk rate in ’20. When we dive deeper, it gets even more concerning:

  • SwStr% – 17.4%
  • O-Swing% – 51.2%

He was bad against all types of pitches, though it was particularly ugly against offspeed pitches (43.59% Whiff%) and wasn’t so great against breaking balls (21.37%). Buxton still saw hard pitches 61.63% of the time last season, but that’s a number that could steadily drop.

While injuries are viewed as the biggest issue and his power surge is going to grab our attention, the other problems far outweigh those. An ugly approach and a power-focused swing could lead to terrible results over the long haul as he gets exposed.

The name is going to draw you in, but for most Buxton is going to be a player to avoid in 2021.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m still hoping & waiting for the “post-ASG 2017” version of Buxton, who can play ~150 games. I know it’s wishful thinking at this point, but I’ve kept faith for this long already. He’s got too much talent to always be on the DL…he’s got to catch a break one year, right?

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