MINNEAPOLIS -- No Twins player can affect a game in more ways than Byron Buxton.The 23-year-old center fielder is the fastest player in the Majors, according to Statcast™'s sprint speed metric, is arguably the game's best defender, easily leading all outfielders in Statcast™'s Outs Above Average, and he also experienced
MINNEAPOLIS -- No Twins player can affect a game in more ways than Byron Buxton.
The 23-year-old center fielder is the fastest player in the Majors, according to Statcast™'s sprint speed metric, is arguably the game's best defender, easily leading all outfielders in Statcast™'s Outs Above Average, and he also experienced a breakout offensively in the second half of the season.
Buxton is heading to his first postseason and he's the Twins' X-factor, as how he plays could have a major effect on how far the Twins advance in their first playoff appearance since 2010.
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"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 until you play with him, you see the balls he gets to nobody else can get to."
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Buxton's game-changing speed helps him in both the outfield and on the bases, as his average sprint speed of 30.2 feet per second narrowly leads the Reds' Billy Hamilton at 30.1 feet per second. On the bases, Buxton is 29-for-30 in stolen base attempts and set the club record with 24 straight steals and counting without getting caught.
"It's more that I've been doing my homework before the game," Buxton said. "I've been looking at video at whoever is starting that day. Does his head do something different? Does his shoulder do something different? Does his knee go a different way? Where does he set up on the rubber? Things to give me that slight edge."
In the outfield, Buxton leads the Majors in four-star catches, converting an astounding 26 of 27 opportunities for a 96.3 percent success rate that's 12 percent higher than the next best outfielder, Boston's Mookie Betts. For context, Angels superstar Michael Trout is just 1-for-8 on four-star attempts this year. Buxton also dominates the new metric, Outs Above Average, with 25, leading Ender Inciarte by six outs above average and Betts by 10.
"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."
Offensively, Buxton has turned it around ever since muting his leg kick in early June. Buxton is hitting .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases in the second half, while showing he has plenty of power to go with his elite speed.
"The way the season went early, it would've been easy to lose confidence, but as I've progressed with my new swing, the confidence just kept coming," Buxton said. "Last year was a tough year and wasn't fun at all. But I've learned not to get too low or too high, and treat every day the same."
Buxton has all the tools to be one of baseball's next superstars, and an impressive postseason could put him on the map on the national stage and help the surprising Twins make noise in October.
"It's a moment I've been trying to get to my whole life," Buxton said. "Just to be able to come out here with these guys every day is incredible."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.