MINNEAPOLIS -- For as good as Byron Buxton was in his breakout season in 2017, the Twins believe it's just the start of something special for the budding star.The 23-year-old led the surprising Twins in bWAR in 2017, per baseball-reference.com, and the center fielder was universally crowned as the best
MINNEAPOLIS -- For as good as Byron Buxton was in his breakout season in 2017, the Twins believe it's just the start of something special for the budding star.
The 23-year-old led the surprising Twins in bWAR in 2017, per baseball-reference.com, and the center fielder was universally crowned as the best defensive player in baseball, winning both the Rawlings Platinum Glove and the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
Buxton's offense also improved dramatically in the second half, and combined with his defense, it makes him the club's most indispensable player next season. MLB.com is taking a look at "VIPs" around the game, and there's nobody more important to the Twins than Buxton because he affects so many facets of the game.
"I think everyone understands that we're a different team when Byron's out there patrolling center field," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's not just his improved offense, it's his impact defensively."
Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com prior to both the 2014 and '15 seasons, had struggled offensively in the Majors heading into last season and started off slow yet again.
But with the help of hitting coach James Rowson, Buxton muted his leg kick in early May and began to see results at the plate. He became more comfortable with the changes after the All-Star break and hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases over his final 57 games.
"My teammates and coaches still believed in me after a rough start," Buxton said. "When I started the season off that way, they had faith to leave me up here and let me battle through it. It shows how much they believe in me, and it pushed me to want to be better and contribute to the team."
If Buxton can reach anywhere near that kind of production offensively over the course of a season, he could become an MVP candidate. According to the Statcast™ sprint speed metric, he's already the fastest player in the Majors, and he has improved on the bases as well, going 29-for-30 on stolen base attempts in '17.
Given his skill set, the sky is the limit for Buxton, and 2018 could be the year he blossoms into an All-Star. Either way, his defense and speed already make him one of the Majors' more important players.
"It's awesome to see his strides offensively and on the basepaths. He's become a very good offensive player, but he changes the game defensively more than anybody I've ever seen," Twins second baseman James Dozier said. "It bugs me that he's even compared to other guys because when you play with him, you see the balls he gets to nobody else can get to."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.