Byron Buxton has stamped his name as an early MVP candidate in 2021 and by doing so has shown he is one of the best players in Major League Baseball.
The MLB Network crew were raving about him and metrics master Brian Kenny named Buxton a late bloomer who’s finally escalating towards superstar status.
With the first few weeks of the season behind us, Buxton has flexed the multiplicity of skills that led to him being rated one of the top prospects in baseball since Appling County High School in Baxley, Georgia. Legendary baseball reporter Joel Sherman insisted that even if Buxton didn’t hit, his athleticism, premium defense and speed make him an impactful player.
Now entering his 7th major league season, the former 2012, No. 2 overall pick has shown an impressive display of hitting and power early this season. It’s all coming together.
Let’s call it Buxton in Beast Mode.
His .469 Batting Average is good for 2nd in the major leagues. He has a hit in all 10 games he’s played in this season, including a pinch-hit game-tying home run against the Tigers and a two-hit performance while in a winter wonderland of snow against the Red Sox.
He also leads the league in OPS which is your on-base and slugging percentage combined.
We have seen signs of potential superstardom from Buxton in the past. He’s a human highlight film with the web, putting in serious work with spectacular catches at the wall. Don’t forget, he has a cannon that would make Dave Winfield applaud. There’s nobody really messing with him from first to third.
Injuries have played a major part in Buxton not being able to reach his full potential. Since 2015, he has suffered a list of injuries and missed extensive time, including a 2015 thumb sprain in his rookie year, knee contusion and back spasms in 2016, a groin strain and migraine in 2017, migraines, a fractured toe and sprained wrist in 2018 as well as a concussion and labrum surgery in 2019.
He played in 46, 92, 140, 28 and 87 games in those seasons respectively.
So what changed for Buxton this season? It seemed he figured out some things at the plate in the Covid-shortened 2020 season as he hit .254 with 27 RBI’s and 13 Home Runs and finished with a career-high in slugging percentage. The most home runs he’d ever hit in a full season was 16.
Buck refined his power swing in the off-season and added nearly 15 pounds of muscle by lifting weights multiple times every day. Buxton also made sure that the addition of weight would not take away from his elite speed as he also ran nightly with his high school track coach.
It is good for baseball that Buxton is finally busting out as the definition of a 5 tool player. If he can stay healthy, the rest of the game will come. The potential is limitless whether it be a 40 steals 40 home run season or a somewhat surprising MVP award.
After rebranding himself in honor of his late mother, former batting champion Dee Strange-Gordon looks to take advantage of a fresh start with the Brewers. Gordon had one of the unforgettable and touching baseball moments of the decade during one of the game’s most somber moments.
The day after All-Star pitcher and Marlins Ace Jose Fernandez tragically passed, Strange-Gordon led off the game by stepping into the right side of the batter’s box as Fernandez did and took a pitch.
As if scripted for a movie directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Strange-Gordon then switched to his familiar left side and blasted a lead-off home run, sending his teammates and city into a frenzy. He crossed the plate and cried inconsolably as the Marlins would go on to win 7-3.
Fast forward to 2021, Strange-Gordon is back in the senior circuit after signing a minor league deal with Milwaukee.
In his 10th season, the 33-year-old saw success during his time in spring training with the Cincinnati Reds. He hit .281 with 4 RBIs and 4 steals but was released from the team on March 26.
Strange Gordon comes from a baseball family. His father Thomas “Flash” Gordon played for eight teams in his 21-year MLB career.
He played in the 2010 Futures Game and was rated as one of the top prospects in the Twins’ organization, but has dealt with a few injury bumps, including a bout with Covid-19 that left him hospitalized last year.
Despite being the son of a famous pitcher, Dee’s journey has not been without its trauma. His mom and dad didn’t stay together. He then lost his mother at the age of six when she was killed by her boyfriend. It was not the first time his mother had been a victim of domestic violence. Just days prior to her death, that same boyfriend was being abusive and Dee saved her by hitting him over the head with a dumbbell.
This season he decided to honor her by re-using his legal surname. He had gone by the name for most of his life but at one point decided to simplify his last name after it was once mispronounced by an announcer during a rookie ball game.
Strange-Gordon made the 2014 and 2015 All-Star games stealing 122 bases during that span. He won both a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award in 2015 as a second baseman for the Miami Marlins. His legs were a weapon for any team that secured his services.
Just when it seemed like everything was perfect, Dee was suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2016 and missed 80 games. He hit .308 in 2017 and stole 60 bases for the second time in his career.
He became an outfielder after joining a Mariners team that already had Robinson Cano. In three seasons with Seattle, Strange Gordon hit .266 despite having a rough 2020 that saw him hit just .200 in 33 games.
Instead of toiling in the minors, Dee has an opportunity to make himself valuable again. With Kolten Wong expected to land on the injury list and Luis Urias struggling at the plate, it’s possible Dee Strange Gordon will get to make an impact on a very good Brewers team looking to leapfrog into the conversation as baseball’s best team.
He didn’t get the decision, but his energy and quality start paced the Mets to a controversial walk-off win in their home opener.
The lights are always brighter in New York, especially when fans haven’t seen baseball live since 2019 when Walker’s teammate and fellow MLB Bro Dominic Smith hit a walk-off homer in the team’s season finale.
The 28-year-old native of Shreveport, Louisiana wasted no time as he attacked the zone from the first pitch. He threw three fastballs at 96, 96, and 97 to strike out the leadoff batter on consecutive pitches. He then fielded a comebacker and picked off Starling Marte after walking him.
You knew from the gitty that he didn’t lace up cleats this morning to mess around.
Walker went 4 ⅓ innings without allowing a hit in his first game in a Mets uniform. It was the second-longest a Mets pitcher has gone without allowing a hit in their team debut. He finished his day going six innings, striking out four and allowing four hits.
He had a 1-0 lead for a majority of the game but ended up giving up two runs in the 6th, putting him in line for the loss. His teammate Jeff McNeil hit a 9th inning home run to get Walker off the hook. The Mets ended up winning the game with a walk-off, hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded.
The former 43rd pick of the 2010 draft has bounced around a few times in his young career, but the team remains excited by his potential. He began in Seattle and was sent to the Diamondbacks in 2016. After having Tommy John surgery, he ended up back with Seattle for a second time before being traded to the Blue Jays last season.
Walker became a key part of a rotation that bolstered a late Blue Jays playoff push in the American League last season. He had a 1.37 ERA in six games with Toronto striking out 25 in over 26 innings pitched, easily the best stretch of his career.
Walker is a part of only two pitching rotations with multiple black starters in the Major Leagues, the other being his former team the Seattle Mariners (Justus Sheffield & Justin Dunn).
Walker and No. 2 starter Marcus Stroman have been lights out in consecutive wins for the Mets. They have combined to go 12 innings allowing 3 runs and striking out 7.
It looks like Walker is ready to piggyback off his strong 2020 campaign and be a golden-armed force in the Mets owner’s promise to bring a World Series Championship back to the city.
The Major League Baseball season has completed a week’s worth of games and several MLB Bros are already making major noise. From seemingly earning the keys to the city to being atop the leaderboards in major statistical categories, their impact has been felt.
Here are my #HighFive players through the first week of the 20201 MLB season.
“Real Deal” Akil Baddoo (Tigers)
“BADDOO, BADDOO, BADDOO and one more by BADDOO.”
Akil Baddoo of the Detroit Tigers takes the top spot after one of the best opening weeks we have seen in a long time. It began Sunday, as he hit a home run on the first MLB pitch ever thrown in his direction. The blast did much to relax his mother in the stands, who said she could “finally eat a pretzel” after.
On Monday he hit a grand slam. On Tuesday he came off the pine to smoke a walk-off single to beat the rival Twins. Wednesday, he completed his magical week with an RBI triple and an outfield assist.
Real Deal Akil is the first Tiger’s player with an RBI in each of his first four career games since Ron Cash in 1973. Baddoo has been all over the highlight tapes this season and is giving his entire city life.
Cedric Mullins (Orioles)
“They used to call me Sacrifice Ced…But now they call me Bat Man Mullins”
Cedric Mullins went from being a utility bunt master to a legit all-around hitter and starting centerfielder at the top of the O’s lineup this season.
His .480 batting average places him second in the league. He’s also tied for 2nd in hits with 12, five of which came in a perfect 5-knock day against the Red Sox.
Mullins continued his newfound power stroke, blasting a home run on Wednesday night against the Yankees.
The Baltimore leadoff hitter smashed his first home run of the season in Wednesday’s 4-3 extra-innings game against the Bronx Bombers. Mullins is a huge part of this young team on the rise. Don’t look now, but at 4-2 the Orioles are in sole possession of first place in the AL East
Marcus “HDMH” Stroman (Mets)
“Big Drip In The Big Apple”
The only pitcher in my #HighFive is Marcus Stroman. Stroman’s Mets had an odd beginning to the season as their first series against the rival Nationals was canceled due to a Washington Covid outbreak.
He made his first start of the year Tuesday night against the Phillies and was electrifying as usual, baffling the Phillies with an array of pitches and arm angles and a unique savvy that few pitchers possess.
He threw six innings of three-hit ball, striking out three and giving up only one run on a Didi Gregoris homer. He did this, all the while keeping his swag and his mound strut on 100. Must watch TV.
There will be plenty of eyes on the Mets this season and Stroman, a Long Island product welcomes the bright lights. He is a part of one of the strongest rotations in baseball and will be a key in what will be a tough NL East race.
Remaining healthy, of course, is the key for Stroman and if he can get 30 starts his performance is sure to be at an All-Star level.
Byron Buxton (Twins)
“If it’s up then it’s up then it’s up then it’s Buck”
Byron Buxton missed one game this week due to a non-Covid related illness, but that did not keep him down long as he hit a pinch-hit game-tying home run in the late innings on Tuesday.
He’s batting .357, tied for second in MLB with 3 bombs, and has a hit in every game he has played in.
Injuries have been a problem in the past for Buxton. He’s one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game and is starting to find power at the plate after hitting 13 home runs last season in 39 games. If he can put it all together, Buxton is a dark horse MVP candidate.
Aaron “ALL RISE” Judge
“Only God Can Judge Me”
Aaron Judge rounds out this list and if he can stay healthy I believe he will be at the top of it in no time. Entering last night’s game against the O’s, the New York slugger was batting .364 batting average and 5 RBI’s.
He hit home runs in back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday including a three-run 8th-inning homer to break open the game against Baltimore.
The game is changing right in front of our eyes, and the New MLB City Connects are going to be a huge part of it.
Two years ago a billion-dollar deal brought two of America’s most synonymous brands together; Major League Baseball and NIKE.
This new age era of baseball acknowledges showmanship and flair in the game as an important part of MLB’s future. Bat flips, dugout celebrations, and even pitchers breaking out their best dance moves after strikeouts on a nightly basis have been fun to watch.
On the other side, we have seen NIKE becoming the official uniform brand of both the NBA and NFL recently.
In January of 2019, NIKE announced a billion-dollar deal that included $3 million in the pockets of each team, bringing the swoosh to all baseball jerseys in 2020.
This morning, baseball unveiled one of 7 teams that City Connects collections will be fitting this year.
In a statement, NIKE announced these jerseys would honor each team’s city, history, fans and culture. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, LA Dodgers, Florida Marlins and Giants will be releasing their looks at a later date.
One of the most iconic franchises, Boston Red Sox were up first, and in my eyes, hit a home run with their Boston Marathon-themed fashion choice.
The idea behind City Connect is that the jerseys explore, not just a team’s historic look, but something significant about that team’s broader hometown and culture. For the Miami Heat, Nike created a blue and pink, 1980s neon throwback for the team that screamed Don Johnson, bucking tradition for the otherwise red, black, and yellow franchise. The strategy has worked well. Nike’s Miami Heat jersey became the best selling jersey in the NBA in several seasons, according to Nike.
These jerseys stray away from the normal Red Sox white and blue, choosing to go with blue yellow jerseys in honor of the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The yellow is complemented with the word “Boston” across the chest in blue. The city area code 617 is on the sleeve.
The new looks are going to take some getting used to. Baseball’s color schemes continue to evolve out of the traditional looks, but we have seen these types of designs recently with the NBA City collection jerseys in recent years.
“Nike is uniquely suited for our relationship with the MLB because we like pushing the edges of creativity across the board, but it’s always done out of a place of supporting the players and advancing the sport,” said Nike Vice President of North America League partnerships Sonja Henning.
Although we are not sure when the next team’s jerseys will be released, we do know the dates that they will debut on the field.
The Red Sox will be worn April 17th, Florida Marlins May 21st, Chicago Cubs June 12th, Arizona D-Backs June 18th and San Francisco Giants on July 9th.
The White Sox and MLB Bro Tim Anderson will be wearing their new drip on June 5th in a Saturday night matchup against the hottest young talent in baseball, Akil Baddoo, and the Detroit Tigers.
2018 MVP and multiple World Series champion Mookie Betts and the Los Angeles Dodgers will rock theirs in late August.
I’m ready to see these jerseys on the field. Like it or not a cultural change is coming to MLB and these classic jerseys will be a major part of the process.