In the bottom of the sixth inning yesterday, Byron Buxton made a spectacular catch in center field (quickly becoming his new norm), further strengthening his case as one of (or possibly) the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball.
Here’s the catch:
That … looked painful.
But good old fashioned hustle – and a pinch of a hungry young player’s fearlessness – robbed the Indians’ Carlos Santana of possible extra bases.
Buxton, formerly baseball’s top prospect, is working on his third season in the Major Leagues right now, though he’s never quite found his footing. In his debut 2015 season, he played in just 46 games, and last season he played in just 92. This year, however, he’s already played in 31 of the Minnesota Twins 34 contests, and for good reason … defense.
According to FanGraphs, Buxton’s five defensive runs saved this season ranks third best among all MLB center fielders, despite playing in fewer innings.
CF Defensive Runs Saved Leaders:
- Lorenzo Cain (315.0 In): 7 DRS
- Kevin Kiermaier (330.2 In): 6 DRS
- Byron Buxton (251.0 In): 5 DRS
- Odubel Herrera (288.1 In): 4 DRS
- Christian Yelich (306.0 In): 4 DRS
In fact, Buxton’s 5 DRS is actually tenth most in all of baseball, and of the nine guys ahead of him only two others (Jason Heyward and Nick Ahmed) have done better in fewer innings.
Buxton hasn’t quite figured things out at the plate yet in his Major League career (70 wRC+ to date), but last season, his defense (and, admittedly, solid base running) carried him to a 1.7 WAR season. And considering that he recorded just 3 DRS in three times as many innings last year, I’d say it’s fair to assume he’s already taken that part of his game to the next level.
The Twins, of course, would love it if things turned around at the plate (and they certainly could!), but even if the don’t, it looks like the Twins have a truly premier defensive center fielder on their hands.
And he might even be on his way towards challenge the best in the league.