Byron Buxton had a rough rookie season with the Twins in 2016. But, after showing some signs of life in September, what is his fantasy value heading into 2017?
Good ole prospects. It is fascinating to see the change over the years when it comes to prospects and expectations. Thanks to the increased and more detailed sources that the average fan now has at their disposal, the hype surrounding young players has reached unbelievable levels. Uber-prospects like Byron Buxton no longer can hide in the minors and the hype around the Twins youngster reached its fever pitch the last few seasons.
Byron Buxton has nearly been unanimously voted as the best prospect in the game the last three seasons. His raw athleticism is undeniable and he just looks the part. But, like all things sports related, the player has to eventually prove it on the field. Buxton debuted with the Twins in 2015 but last season was his first taste of starting the season with the big league club.
Unfortunately, like in 2015, things got off to a dreadful start and Buxton would be sent down in May after only batting .156 in April. He would re-emerge in June, but just could not get things going at the plate as he batted .209 in June and .214 in July. To make matters worse, he would tweak his knee at the end of July, limiting him to only two games in August.
On the surface those numbers are atrocious. Add his abysmal 36% K rate and paltry 7% BB rate to his profile and things just continue to get ugly. Yet, Buxton would seemingly find new life in September, posting a .287/9 HR/22 RBI/1.011 OPS line. This is what fantasy owners and Twins’ fans had yearned to see and what makes him such an interesting fantasy option in 2017.
Let us first get the negative out of the way. Buxton will struggle to post a solid AVG in 2017 based on his K and Contact rates. He has the upside to certainly hit higher, but a safe guess is to expect something in the .250-.260 range. It may be lost on most, but Buxton has only played in 325 career minor league games. He has barely over 500 at bats at any minor league level above AA, so he is still relatively raw in terms of facing tougher pitching.
Now to the good. For a guy that did not make a ton of contact, his peripheral stats are promising. He ended last season with a 22% LD , 35% GB, 43% FB, 17% Soft, 56% Med and 27% Hard contact rates. Those are solid ratios and offer a glimpse into the type of damage he could do if he can refine his plate approach.
A key behind his rebound late last season was that he reintroduced a leg kick back into his swing, which the Twins had told him to do away with. This more familiar loading mechanism not only made his swing more fluid, but his 17 XBH in only 29 games last September speaks to what he can do.
The Twins quietly have the potential to have a potent top of the lineup, and the Twins have already acknowledged that Buxton could hit his way to the top of the order. If he could slide to the top and be followed by the likes of Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano, his counting stats will see that much-needed boost.
Byron Buxton is the ultimate post-hype fantasy lottery ticket heading into 2017. Most owners will see his unsightly seasonal line and be scared off, while others will find his late season success too hard to pass up. He will not cost a lot on draft day, so why not take the gamble? He may not put it all together next season, but a .260/15 HR/60 RBI/20 SB type of season is not a far-fetched expectation.