The Minnesota Twins were projected to be second place in the AL Central behind the Chicago White Sox in the preseason rankings. Their biggest question mark was pitching, especially the starting rotation. Sadly that is the case outside of Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers, Michael Pineda, and J.A. Happ.
The Twins currently have the ninth-best batting average in the league, are ranked sixth in home runs, and third in slugging percentage. However, the team struggles to put runs together as they rank sixteenth in the league. With a 12-20 record, center-fielder Byron Buxton has been one of the team’s most consistent players through 32 games this season.
THE EARLY AL MVP FRONTRUNNER?
Byron Buxton has had a superb start by building on the breakout season during the shortened 2020 season. In just 130 at-bats in 2020, Buxton showed that he is more than just a wizard in the field at patrolling center field. He added some pop to his arsenal by hitting .254 and 13 home runs. He ended up placing sixteenth in the AL MVP voting last season.
Looking at the same sample size this season, this is certainly the best version of himself as he and Nelson Cruz have been the lone exceptions on the team. Buxton’s numbers on offense have been off the charts as he hits his last year of arbitration before he hits free agency after next year.
He has been a solid player but never had an amazing offensive stat line. He has slashed better than .262/.314/.513 and his career homer and RBI numbers have never gotten higher than 16 homers and 51 RBI in his career.
Buxton ranks in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity, 94th percentile in max exit velocity, 98th percentile in sprint speed, barrel percentage, expected weighted on-base average, and expected batting average. Buxton started off the season by hitting two home runs that traveled more than 450 feet.
This season he has a batting average of .370 which is good for second or third at any given night because Yermin Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox is batting .371 and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels leads the league with a batting average of .388. Buxton is currently tied for fifth in doubles and first in OPS. He also ranks eighteen in stolen bases.
In terms of defense, Buxton has always been a great fielder due to his track star type speed and he has the potential of being a Gold Glove recipient every year. His defensive skills rank him seventh in dWAR. Even Mike Trout’s defense is not as good when comparing his numbers to Buxton.
CURRENT MVP RACE
Buxton has been off to a hot start through 32 games; however, he still has tough competition in the early part of the season. Both Mike Trout and Shohei Otani have yet to slow down as Trout seems to be part of the MVP discussion every year with his hitting and fielding ability. Otani has proven that he can hit and pitch in this league at a high level.
Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz need to continue their strong starts as the team needs some time to get out of the cold stretch. The Minnesota Twins have lost five of their last eight games in the month of May as they face the first-place Chicago White Sox for three games before facing the first-place Oakland Athletics of the AL West for a three-game series. After that, the team clashes against the White Sox once again.
Buxton is currently on pace to become the first MVP from the Twins organization since the great catcher Joe Mauer did in 2009.