The Minnesota Twins are about to begin their 2020 season, and in order to be successful, they’ll need a good season from their franchise player: Byron Buxton.
When Joe Mauer retired in 2018, the Minnesota Twins lost the player who had been the face of their franchise and a fan favorite since he was picked No. 1 overall in 2001. This began a new search for a “franchise player”.
A franchise player is an athlete who is the face of the team and needs to fit three categories: he needs to be a fan favorite, he needs to be talented, and he needs to be a player who fans around the league have heard of.
This is a tall order, especially for Minnesota Twins players. The Twins haven’t had a generational talent, a player who was considered one of the best players in the league since Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew before him. Mauer came close, but he wasn’t considered a generational talent across the league.
The other hard thing is that almost all franchise players are hitters. Cody Bellinger outshines Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers. Bryce Harper is bigger than Aaron Nola in Philidelphia. Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, the list goes on. Another common theme? They’re all outfielders.
This brings me back to the Twins. Picking a franchise player is hard. Jose Berrios is the unquestioned ace and a two-time All-Star. Max Kepler is a fan favorite. Jorge Polanco, Nelson Cruz, and Mitch Garver were excellent in 2019.
The real franchise player however, is Byron Buxton. This may come as a surprise to a lot of Twins fans, but out of the pool of players the team has to offer, Buxton’s game, style, position, and skill help make him the clear choice.
Reason No. 1: Byron Buxton is the Minnesota Twins Fan Favorite
Twins fans often get frustrated with Byron Buxton because of his inability to stay on the field, but Buxton is still one of the most liked players on the team. The Athletic polled Twins fans in April to find out who their favorite Twins player was. The No. 1 choice? Buxton.
34.9% of the people polled picked Buxton, who edged out Kepler (32.6%). No other player got higher than 16.4%. It’s really easy to see why Buxton came out on top in this poll. When he’s on the field, he’s electric.
The speed is fascinating, the defense is some of the best in the league, and he hits doubles like nobody’s business. On top of that skill, he’s very likable, and his family is one of the most well liked in Twins territory:
Reason No. 2: He was the highest Minnesota Twins pick since Mauer
Another reason Buxton is the face of the franchise is his name recognition. Buxton was the No. 2 pick of the 2012 MLB draft behind Carlos Correa and still has a chance to be the top player chosen that year, just because of how much potential he still has left.
Buxton quickly rose to the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball by 2014, and in a dark period for the Twins he was the light at the end of the tunnel. He shows lots of flashes of that potential, but he never quite reaches this due to injuries.
Despite all this, Buxton still is just 26 and hasn’t entered his prime yet. That pedigree and talent is still there, helping him be known across the league and be well followed by the Twins and their organization.
Reason No. 3: The Minnesota Twins’ outfielder is the best at his position
No defender is better when healthy. No one. Buxton is one of baseball’s fastest players, and he uses that speed to play incredible defense and make plays like this:
This causes some issues, as he can sometimes be reckless, leading to his many injuries. The Twins have done a lot of work this offseason trying to help Byron still make those same amazing plays without putting his body at risk. We all hope those changes will help.
Buxton’s play has made a really good case that as the Twins’ franchise player. His lovable personality, excellent play (on defense), and draft pedigree make him one of Minnesota’s key stars, specifically their franchise player.