Spring Story: Should We Be Buying Byron Buxton?

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We all know that Spring Training numbers don’t mean much, but given the previous disappointments everyone is taking notice to the red hot start for Byron Buxton:

.625 (5-8), 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB

Is anyone really going to draw a conclusion off 8 AB?  Obviously not, and given his history it’s hard to get excited regardless of the numbers.  Once hailed as the elite prospects, Buxton has routinely disappointed in the Majors. 

Now 25-years old he’s slashed .230/.285/.387 over parts of four seasons (979 AB).  The biggest problem has been a poor approach (14.1% SwStr% for his career), leading to a 31.7% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate.  He’s generally struggled against non-fastballs, though his Whiff% against hard pitches isn’t overly impressive either:

SeasonHardBreaking BallOffspeed
201510.41%16.13%30.00%
201612.20%21.47%27.52%
201712.09%17.91%26.19%
201811.37%22.50%13.64%

It’s no surprise that he’s struggled more against breaking balls and offspeed pitches, and this early in the spring just how many of those is he seeing?  The likelihood it not many, and considering the breakdown of his career home runs (28) it’s easy to throw even more cold water on the hot start:

  • Fourseam Fastball – 13
  • Sinker – 3
  • Cutter – 3

So that’s 19 of 28 (or about 68%) of his career home runs having come against hard pitches.  As for his two home runs this spring have come against pitchers we know (Jalen Beeks and Hunter Harvey), but fellow youngsters who are also simply trying to find their footing.

We can use all the clichés to explain why the early spring start may be for real, but unless he maintains it deeper into the spring and against more advanced talent it’s hard to believe.  Let others get excited, and while it’s possible he has figured something out he remains nothing more than a late round flier when it comes to 2019 (though a slightly more attractive one).

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com

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