Late Saturday afternoon my wife confiscated my cellphone, forbade me to use my computer or get on the internet, and told me that Sunday was going to be my ersatz birthday celebration given that my real birthday back in January got skipped this year. With a sense of irony, the Minnesota Twins took that opportunity to promote Byron Buxton to the majors during my brief sabbatical.
Buxton went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his major league debut, though he did work his way on base via a fielder's choice and scored the winning run in Minnesota's 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers. Earlier on Saturday I posted an article about rookies being promoted from Double-A to the majors without intervening Triple-A exposure. The Buxton story fits right into that.
Before moving up, Buxton was hitting .283/.351/.489 for Double-A Chattanooga with seven doubles, 12 triples, six homers, 20 steals in 22 attempts and a 26/51 BB/K ratio in 237 at-bats. The Chattanooga line parses out to a 137 wRC+, impressive production for a 21-year-old at that level, particularly a 21-year-old who is working off rust after missing most of the previous season to injury. Buxton was especially hot the last couple of weeks, hitting .377/.444/.435 in his last 12 games before the promotion.
Buxton ranked sixth on my pre-season Top 175 Prospects list. The five ahead of him were Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Lucas Giolito, Julio Urias, and Addison Russell. That looks good so far: Bryant and Russell have seized regular jobs for the Cubs, Correa was just promoted to the majors by the Astros, Giolito has been solid in High-A (4.08 ERA but a sharp 51/8 K/BB in 40 innings), and Urias was strong in Double-A (3.00, 46/9 K/BB in 36 innings) before going on the disabled list for eye surgery. With Bryant, Correa, and Russell in the Show, Giolito in A-ball, and Urias on the DL, Buxton would have ranked first on a revised prospect list.
So, what can we expect?
His defense will prove excellent right away; he's simply a tremendous outfielder, gifted with superior instincts to go with his stellar athleticism, speed, and strong throwing arm. As a hitter, my guess is that he will not be an outstanding offensive player immediately. However, he won't be a bad hitter; he'll hold his job. He'll exceed rookie qualifications thus summer and won't show up on subsequent prospect lists.
My projection: Buxton will hit .259/.327/.405 the rest of the way, with an OPS slightly better than league average (say 107 OPS+). However, his glove will be outstanding and will push his WAR value well into positive territory. Then the offensive breakout comes in 2016.
What's your take on Buxton?