Byron Buxton And The Twins Bryce Harper Problem


This offseason, the Minnesota Twins decided to bring back outfielder Torii Hunter. They signed him to a one-year $10.5 millon contract, and the narrative was that his veteran leadership was immeasurable. While that is somewhat difficult to judge, the Twins have their own Bryce Harper problem on their hands, and his name is Byron Buxton.

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Hunter is going to come in and hit for the Twins, his bat is still major league capable. He does however present a defensive liability, and his veteran leadership is somewhat hard to quantify. Is he going to help change the emotion of the clubhouse, yes very likely. Is he going to be a leader for the youth down on the farm, also very likely.

Byron Buxton is already the best prospect in baseball on his own. That isn’t to say that he won’t continue to grow, improve, and fine-tune his abilities through the help of others. The bigger area of growth that Buxton should benefit from Hunter’s veteran presence comes in learning to play the game as a professional.

The Washington Nationals went through a similar situation with phenom prospect Bryce Harper. Offensively, Harper and Buxton play a very different game, but in the outfield they are one in the same. Harper has made a career of highlight reel catches that take place following top-notch speed. He hustles, and he gets after it on every single play. That exact style has left him on the disabled list for significant stretches throughout his career. For Washington, Harper never worked through that at the minor league level, and now must be taught in the majors.

Torii Hunter is no stranger to making highlight reel catches, tracking down baseballs, and laying out his body. He also has done so while being a pillar of strength for teams, in which he is able to contribute full seasons year in and year out, which still has him playing at the age of 39. The Twins will be hoping that is something he can instill in the young Buxton.

The message is not to take plays off, or lack effort, but instead to understand and harness ability. Byron Buxton played only 31 games in 2014, and the injuries were a by-product of a player that was always going all out. Minnesota wants to view Buxton tracking down baseballs in the Target Field outfield, but to do so on a consistent basis he is going to need to be healthy. Working with and observing the way in which Hunter approaches the game is something that should be beneficial for Buxton this spring.

At this point, there isn’t a reason to believe that the injuries caused by plays in 2014 aren’t correctable going forward. Rather than having a star player on the bench like Harper, the Twins will be hoping that when Buxton arrives, he can always contribute. Look for that to be a Spring Training key of both Buxton and Hunter. 2015 should be a season in which Buxton is able to put the injuries behind him.

Next: Twins Takes: Seven Hot Predictions For 2015

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