Sano and Buxton. Buxton and Sano. Those names in any order have represented hope for Twins fans the past three seasons. Now both are here. While Miguel Sano has taken Twins Territory by storm, belting 14 homeruns in his first 50 games, some patience is required when monitoring Byron Buxton’s progress.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton has hit .301/.383/.489 with 94 steals in 276 minor league games and was MLB.com’s No.1 ranked prospect the past two seasons. So far in the big leagues, his speed and athleticism are apparent. He’s among the fastest men to ever wear a big league uniform and his defensive prowess screams Gold Glove, but plate discipline has been an issue.
In 90 major league plate appearances, Buxton has already struck out 33 times versus just 3 walks. This is especially concerning because he is not a power hitter. Before you hit the panic button however, remember Buxton doesn’t turn 22 until December and has shown the ability to adapt as he quickly climbed the minor league ladder.
The electric centerfielder and I chatted before Tuesday’s game.
DZ: It’s been an eventful year for you…what’s this whole whirlwind been like…?
BUXTON: It’s been pretty good. I got a lot of experience at Double A and got called up and got a lot of experience real fast…and got injured early. I’ve just got to overcome and adjust. I got sent down to Triple A and just tried to go down there and help them win and get at-bats.
DZ: Was it kind of weird getting called up from Double A, you’re up in the majors and then you are in Triple A having never been there before?
BUXTON: Not at all. It’s the same game, you just go down there to get yourself back on track or to get your confidence back. You just kind of run with it. Once you figure stuff out…you just go out there and have fun and play the game.
DZ: You’re a centerfielder and you’ve get one of the best centerfielders of this generation, this era – Torii Hunter – in the clubhouse with you here. What’s it like being around him?
BUXTON: Amazing. I try to pick his brain as much as possible. I try to learn as much as possible while I can. I know he’s not going to be here much longer, so I try to do everything I can to try to help myself out in the long run.
DZ: I read that when you first got drafted back in 2012 and came up and took BP with the team, Joe Mauer took you aside and showed you the ropes. What do you remember about that day?
BUXTON: I just really came up here to have fun, relax and watch the game while I was up here, so that’s always good. I was just trying to get a feel for it. I had never really been in such a big city and such a big field as this. Just try not to come up here and do too much and be myself.
DZ: Obviously, Aaron Hicks is on the team too, you know each other and there is also a little competition. What is that relationship like?
BUXTON: It is what it is. We are teammates and we just try to go out there and have fun and help our team win. Whatever line-up and whoever is out there, we cheer each other on. It’s all about winning and trying to get to the playoffs.
DZ: You have been the No. 1 prospect (in baseball), when you get called up is it hard not to try to live up to that…?
BUXTON: No, not at all. I don’t pay too much attention to it anyway. I just come up here, play my game and have fun. Whatever way I can contribute to help us get wins, that’s what I will try to do. That’s really all that matters in the end.
DZ: One last thing…A lot has been written about how there are less and less African-American players…in the major leagues. Is that something – to carry that banner – that you take pride in? Do you think about that at all?
BUXTON: Most def. I mean, we want to try to get more African-Americans to play the game. At least try it out and see how it is. Hopefully, there are more and more everyday, but I am really just coming out here and having fun and being myself. I don’t want to pressure anything…you just want to come out here and play the game for fun and have passion for it.
See more of David Zingler’s player interviews:
August 28: Kyle Gibson
August 23: Kevin Jepsen
August 19: Aaron Hicks
August 18: Trevor Plouffe
July 1: Blaine Boyer
June 26: Phil Hughes
June 24: Brian Dozier
June 22: Joe Mauer