Happy Birthday to Byron Buxton, the man that can run down every ball
There aren't many players as athletically gifted as Byron Buxton. He was twice the No. 1 overall prospect in the game as ranked by MLB Pipeline and nearly pulled off the incredibly rare trifecta before finishing second before the 2016 season. That's almost impossible. But Buxton was that young, that gifted, that loaded with jaw-dropping, pencil-sharpening tools that he stayed on the list.
Heading into the 2017 season though, there was reason to be concerned. Though he had showed off speed in the field and on the bases, he struggled mightily making contact. That changed this year. Buxton posted a career-high average and OBP and, though they were still below league-average, showed he was adapting to the league. The speedy outfielder hit .298/.342/.541 with 11 of his 16 coming after Aug. 1. The power, like scouts always like to say, is coming.
But here's Buxton's greatest secret: He doesn't need to hit the ball -- at all -- to be successful. His glove is so sharp and his feet so fleet that he would be useful to the Twins even with a .000 OPS in center field. OK, maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, but it's close to the truth. Buxton led the Majors in Outs Above Average with 25 -- six above Ender Inciarte.
He also made 26 four-star catches -- a catch with a 26 to 50 percent chance of being caught. Most of those drop in, but Buxton didn't just lead the league in total number of four-star catches, but he made the play at a league-best 89.7 percent of the time. Want to get a hit against teh Twins? Don't hit it to center.
So, as we celebrate Buxton's 24th birthday, let's look back at five of his most astonishing catches last year.
He's like a compass. He'll go north -- to the far edge of the map, if necessary:
He'll go south, to end the game:
He'll go east ... after first getting his directions wrong, but still managing to make a stellar grab.
He'll go west:
With a magical spidey-sense, he'll throw his glove up and be lucky enough to come back with it:
So, happy birthday Byron. May it be a good one. And may you not have to run into too many walls today.