Byron Buxton’s first 27 games this season provided everything that the Minnesota Twins were hoping for when they drafted him second overall back in 2012.
The 27-year old outfielder was a lock for the American League All-Star team and an early MVP candidate after bursting out of the gate with a slash line of .369/.409/.767.
But, on June 21, things came to an abrupt halt when Buxton suffered a broken left after being hit by a pitch.
Buxton had already missed a month and a half with a hip strain. It was frustrating for Buxton, and devastating to the Twins.
It wouldn’t be hard to make the argument that the Twins have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this season.
Minnesota was expected to contend for the AL Central championship, if not the best record in the league, and finally win their first playoff game since 2004.
Instead, the Twins are looking up at the Royals from last place. The absence of Byron Buxton from the lineup is a big reason why.
Minnesota is 20-22 when Buxton plays (.476) and 43-59 when he doesn’t (.421).
Buxton rejoined the Twins on to Aug. 27, and he struggled to get back into the swing of things, going 2-for-27 (.074) with 10 strikeouts in his first seven games. His batting average fell from .369 to .301.
He's back. pic.twitter.com/wWdzKbbEnY
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) August 27, 2021
Over his last eight games though, he’s once again looking like one of baseball’s best.
The Twins are 5-3 over that span following Monday afternoon’s 5-6, extra-inning loss to the New York Yankees.
Buxton went 2-for-4 in the game, including his 14th home run of the season in the third inning.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) September 13, 2021
He raised his batting average back over .300 for the first time since Sept. 6.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 13, 2021
Overall, since Sept. 5, he’s batting .305, with 11 hits, four home runs, five RBI, and nine runs scored.
Only Vlad Guerrero Jr. has more home runs among AL hitters in that stretch. Buxton is also in the top ten in runs and doubles.
The surge comes as rumors continue to swirl about Buxton’s future in Minnesota.
The man they call “Buck” is likely to command a lot of them if the Twins let him hit the free agent market in 2023.
Is the franchise ready to make a longer commitment to their talented, but often injured young star?
That remains to be seen.
Until then, Buxton keeps making the case that when he is healthy, he’s one of the most complete players in the majors.