Byron Buxton’s big league career, to this point, is like dealing with a constantly defective smart phone.
You bought the newest model when it was first available in stores because of all the upgrades. You were seduced by ads telling you the phone is available in 15 new colors, has a professional-level camera and 500 GB of memory. Unfortunately, not too long after you pick it up, you are only able to call your doctor or pharmacist, or the GPS gives directions in Yupik or the phone explodes in your hand.
So, you send it back to the manufacturer (the minors) in hopes of everything working properly when it’s returned. Sometimes it works the same as it did before, but other times it works better than ever and every software upgrade continues to help it reach its full potential.
After his sensational finish to last season (.287, nine homers, 22 RBIs, 24 runs scored, a stolen bases, a .357 on-base percentage and a 1.011 OPS in September), many expected the speedy outfielder to take the next step this season. He was drafted as a top-50 outfielder with an average draft position of 171.0, one spot after Marcell Ozuna and several spots ahead of players like Jay Bruce, Yasiel Puig, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Josh Harrison and Michael Conforto. Expectations were high (that’s what happens when you have a highly touted 23-year-old and no one wants to be the one who gave up on a young prospect before he hits big).
Unfortunately, Buxton suffered a hangover early this season, hitting .195 with four homers, 14 RBIs, 80 strikeouts and a .552 OPS over his first 74 games. The only thing that kept him relevant was his age and the fact he had stolen 13 bases. Otherwise, it was disappointing business as usual.
Buxton, however, showed life in July, going 12-for-31 (.387) with a homer, two RBIs, .973 OPS and three stolen bases, before a strained left groin sidelined him. He returned Aug. 1 and hasn’t missed a beat, entering Friday night hitting .298 (25-for-84) with five homers, 14 RBIs and 16 runs scored in his first 24 games this month. He raised his average from .218 to .238 and things continue to look up — his line-drive rate is up, his pull percentage is down and he has been moved up in the batting order. He also has stolen six bases and hit safely in 19-of-24 games this month.
Is there reason to be skeptical? Sure, we’re talking about the second-overall pick in the 2012 draft who has done nothing but underachieve during his time in The Show. He’s still striking out in 29.2 percent of his at-bats (down about 8 percent from earlier in the season) and has a .345 BaBIP this month, so there’s a good chance to see some regression, but not to the point where he’ll be irrelevant.
Buxton was the most added player in ESPN leagues this week, his ownership going from 19.6 percent to almost 55 percent. You can sit there and wonder if he ever will live up to the hype or if he will disappoint you again, which is silly because the answer is yes! He’s still young and no player is perfect (well, outside of Mike Trout). But while you’re sitting there and asking yourself these questions, someone else is taking action, picking him up and maybe getting a player who is figuring it all out.
You’re not going to win a fantasy title thinking of how Buxton burned you in the past or wondering if he’ll be good next year. Worry about today! Go get Buxton! Worry about his future, well, when the future comes. He’s a difference-maker now, and that’s what matters.
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Phillies
Homered in five of his past six games before Friday, and was 15-for-53 (.283) with eight homers, 19 RBIs and a 1.161 OPS in his first 15 games.
Patrick Corbin, SP, D’backs
Has won his past three starts while allowing just one earned run over 23 ¹/₃ innings (0.39 ERA). He has 21 strikeouts, just four walks and a .160 opponents average in that span.
Nicky Delmonico, 3B, White Sox
Over his first 22 big league games, the 25-year-old was hitting .307 with six homers, 12 RBIs, two stolen bases, 15 walks, a .429 OBP and 1.002 OPS.
Cole Hamels, SP, Rangers
The lefty has not lost since July 20, going 5-0 with a 2.85 ERA, 29:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .201 opponent average over his past six starts.
Sean Manaea, SP, Athletics
Not only has he not won since July 16, but he is 0-3 with a 8.17 ERA and .370 opponent average over his past six starts.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Tigers
Has allowed seven earned runs in each of his past three starts, and is 0-3 with a 10.45 ERA and .356 opponent average over his past four starts.
Jose Ramirez, 3B/OF, Indians
It has been a bad month for the All-Star, as his average has dropped from .323 to .299 after going 15-for-78 (.192) with no homers, four RBIs and a .545 OPS in his first 20 games.
Michael A. Taylor, OF, Nationals
In his first 11 games since returning from the DL, he was 6-for-37 (.162) with no homers, one RBI, no stolen bases, 11 strikeouts and a .421 OPS.
- In addition to beating up Tigers, Gary Sanchez was beating up the ball this month. Before receiving a four-game suspension for his part in Thursday’s brawl, he was 25-for-78 (.321) with 11 homers, 23 RBIs and a 1.171 OPS. He had homered in three straight games and eight of his last 12.
- So, what are some of the former Mets doing in their new homes? Well, Jay Bruce hit .345 with four homers and 13 RBIs in his first 15 games with the Indians, while Neil Walker hit .429 with a homer, five RBIs and a 1.087 OPS in his first nine games with Milwaukee. Curtis Granderson had gone deep three times with the Dodgers.
- Wednesday was rough for Rich Hill, who pitched nine no-hit innings (he took a perfect game into the ninth, too) before becoming the first pitcher ever to allow a walk-off homer to lose his no-no. He’s also the first pitcher to lose a no-hit bid in the 10th inning since Pedro Martinez in 1995. The heartbreaking loss snapped a five-game win streak, as he posted a 2.25 ERA and .183 opponents average in nine starts since July 1.
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