It was a good year for the Twins, who rebounded from 103 losses and a last-place finish to 85 wins and an American League Wild Card berth in 2017, which was the team's first postseason appearance since '10.Another positive for Minnesota was the continued development of Byron Buxton, the No.
It was a good year for the Twins, who rebounded from 103 losses and a last-place finish to 85 wins and an American League Wild Card berth in 2017, which was the team's first postseason appearance since '10.
Another positive for Minnesota was the continued development of Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft and a much-hyped top prospect. Shaking off some severe early-season struggles at the plate, Buxton flashed the potential in his bat to go along with sensational defense in center field and spectacular baserunning. All of that added up to 5.1 Wins Above Replacement, tying him for 10th among AL position players.
On Monday, Buxton turns 24 years old. In honor of his birthday, and with some help from Statcast™, here are five feats that made Buxton a lot of fun to watch in 2017.
1. Off to the races
New this year, Statcast™'s sprint speed metric allows for the comparison of different baserunners, measuring their fastest one-second window on "max-effort" plays. There were 451 players with enough qualifying runs to appear on the Baseball Savant leaderboard in 2017, and just two averaged at least 30 feet per second. One was the Reds' Billy Hamilton at 30.1 ft/sec, but the king of sprint speed was Buxton at 30.2 ft/sec.
How did this speed translate to results? Buxton clocked the season's third-fastest home-to-first time (3.44 seconds), second-fastest home-to-second time on a double (7.21), fastest home-to-third time on a triple (10.52) and fastest home-to-home time (13.85). The last of those, on an inside-the-park homer on Aug. 18 against Arizona, set a Statcast™ record.
2. To catch a thief (or not)
Top-notch speed does not automatically make one a good basestealer. But that's exactly what Buxton has turned out to be. He showed off unrivaled efficiency this past season, swiping 29 bags in 30 tries (96.7 percent) to tie for fourth in the AL in steals, while leading all MLB players in success rate (minimum 11 attempts). He joins Carlos Beltran (2001) and Brady Anderson (1994) as the only players to get caught no more than once in 30-plus attempts.
3. Star search
Statcast™'s catch-probability metric measures how likely an outfielder is to make a particular catch, based on how far he has to travel for the ball, how much time he has to do it and the direction in which he is going. Catch probability is expressed on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, ranging from the easiest plays to the most difficult. And no player in 2017 converted more tough plays than Buxton, whose 29 catches rated 4 or 5 stars (0 to 50-percent catch probability) put him five ahead of Boston's Mookie Betts and Atlanta's Ender Inciarte.
4. On the outs
Based on catch probability, Statcast™'s Outs Above Average (OAA) credits an outfielder for the quantity and quality of the plays he makes. This past season, an average outfielder would have been expected to catch 87 percent of fly balls to Buxton, who actually caught 93 percent. That catch percentage added of plus-6 helped Buxton accrue 25 OAA to finish six ahead of second-place Inciarte. The Twins finished at plus-31, while no other team's aggregate OAA matched Buxton's total.
5. Breakout bat
While Buxton's speed and defense are enough to make him a solid player by themselves, his offense has been slower to come around. Through the end of June, he was batting .195/.269/.283 with four homers in 251 plate appearances.
But for the rest of the season -- surrounding a short late-July disabled-list stint -- Buxton showed that he can do so much more at the plate. Over his final 66 games, he posted a .309/.358/.538 line, with eight doubles, five triples and 12 homers in 260 plate appearances. That was good for a 133 wRC+, tying him for 31st among 217 hitters with at least 200 plate appearances in that span.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.