Byron Buxton struggled mightily in his second audition with the Twins this year, going just 7 for 45 and striking out 24 times. He was sent to the minors in late April, and he didn’t exactly set the Class AAA world on fire at the start — hitting just .214 through his first six games (28 at bats) with two walks and nine strikeouts.
The combination of those things, and particularly the way Buxton looked overmatched by big-league pitching, touched off several waves of alarm among Twins fans. The b-word (bust) was even tossed around.
But here are some comforting facts for Twins fans:
*Buxton is still just 22 years old. That’s really young. Just because we’ve been hearing about Buxton for years doesn’t mean he’s getting older at a rate faster than anyone else.
*Since that cool start in Class AAA, he’s been on an absolute tear. Buxton is hitting .380 in 71 May at-bats with 5 homers. His OPS is an eye-popping 1.105 this month. He’s been particularly hot in the last four games, going 7 for 16 with two homers and two doubles. That’s raised his overall average to .333 at Rochester — and this is after he hit .400 there in 55 at bats last year.
Dominating Class AAA doesn’t guarantee anything, but it is certainly an encouraging sign that Buxton is A) getting his confidence back and B) continues to make progress toward fulfilling all the potential he showed at the lower levels of the minors.
At the very least, anyone with even a vague notion that Buxton is a flop should calm down. He’s had 174 career major league at bats, which is still more than he’s had at Class AAA.
He might never figure it out at the major league level, but there’s a long way to go before we can make that conclusion — and more evidence mounting that says he’s on the right track.
The bigger question now becomes: when will we see him in a Twins uniform again? My preference would be sooner rather than later, but there can be a precarious balance between building a young player’s confidence and throwing him back into the fire.
Still, the Twins are drowning in a 12-34 season. Hitting major league pitching takes a lot of reps for most players. Maybe they should just let Buxton play here until he learns how to swim, even if he merely floats for a while.