Byron Buxton played a major league game for the Minnesota Twins last night, the first since his most recent demotion to Triple-A Rochester last month. Also, in that game, Byron Buxton hit a big dinger:
It’d be great to see Buxton succeed. You hate to see any individual fail, let alone one with the type of promise which Buxton possesses. He’s still just 22 — this thing’s far from over — but thus far, Buxton’s done little to deliver on that promise. So we look for developments.
Upon his demotion in early August, I detailed, with the help of hitting instructor Ryan Parker, the numerous changes we’ve already seen in Buxton’s swing. So of course, I was interesting in seeing what that swing looked like this go-around. Particularly so when that swing led to a dinger in Buxton’s first game back.
Buxton had a leg kick in high school, which the Twins muted upon their drafting of him in favor of the organization’s go-to “front foot down early” hitting approach. That’s what we saw in 2015. That’s what we saw in the beginning of 2016, too, though after his first demotion to Triple-A in April, he returned a month later with a leg kick. Given the lack of success Buxton experienced in that stint, it was worth wondering whether Buxton and the Twins would stick with the leg kick, or revert to the original plan.
The leg kick’s still there, and maybe the most important note to be gleaned from this at-bat is that Buxton stuck with the leg kick throughout the count, even after it got to two strikes, something he wasn’t always doing his last time in the bigs. Where Buxton used to shorten up by going back to the toe-tap with two strikes, we’re now seeing Buxton commit to the leg kick more than ever, though it comes with the same caveat Parker provided in my analysis of Buxton last month: the foot’s still coming down before the upper-half of the swing begins, negating much the timing and power the leg kick is intended to provide.
As a counter, watch the .gif above again and pay close attention to where in the swing Buxton’s front foot plants on the ground, and then do the same for this Josh Donaldson swing:
Of course, comparing any hitter to Donaldson is unfair, but if you want to see what an effective leg kick looks like, look no further than Donaldson.
It’s just another something to monitor with Buxton. They could’ve abandoned the leg kick altogether, and they didn’t. To me, that’s a positive sign. The kick itself could still probably use some ironing out, but the committal with two strikes seems to indicate that the plan is to stick with this approach for the time being. The strikeouts never went away, but Buxton homered in four consecutive Triple-A games last week, and he’s already got the first of this go-around in the bigs under his belt. Byron Buxton isn’t going away any time soon, and neither is his intrigue.
August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.