Minnesota Twins: 3 Reasons Byron Buxton is the early MVP Frontrunner

We’re one month into the season, and the Minnesota Twins are 9-15, the third worst record in baseball. The pitching has been disappointing outside of Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, and J.A. Happ.

The defense of the team has been downright terrible, and the offense is truly and undoubtedly bad. The hitting has been mostly terrible. One shining exception to the otherwise awful start to the year? Byron Buxton.

He’s been so good that MLB.com put him fourth on their list of MVP candidates, listed behind Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, and Shohei Ohtani. That’s pretty good company to be in, but I would argue that he should be the clear frontrunner in the race.

Reason No. 1 for the Minnesota Twins’ Byron Buxton to win MVP: His Offensive Numbers

Buxton has been fantastic this season, playing better than almost any other hitter in baseball. He is tied for first in offensive WAR, second in homers, third in total bases, and ranks ninth in doubles. If he qualified, he would also rank first in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS.

Those are really impressive numbers for the outfielder, far and away the best numbers he’s ever put up. He’s never slashed better than .262/.314/.513 and his career homer and RBI numbers have never gotten higher than 16 homers and 51 RBI, but these numbers seem legit.

According to Baseball Savant, Buxton is hitting in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity, 94th percentile in max exit velocity, 98th percentile in sprint speed, barrel percentage, expected weighted on-base average, and expected batting average. Wow.

On top of all that, Buxton was tops in the league in expected slugging and hard-hit percentage. He’s been an absolute force offensively, and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is even higher (.438), suggesting his batting average should be higher. He’s on fire on offense.

Reason No. 2 for the Minnesota Twins’ Byron Buxton to win MVP: His Defense is as Good as it’s Always Been

All of those offensive stats don’t even compare to his defense, where his exceptional fielding skills have him ranked seventh-best in the league for defensive WAR. The only reason he’s ranked that low is the number of games he’s played.

Buxton’s is one of baseball’s fastest players, allowing him to steal bases almost at will. It also allows him to catch baseballs that most people can’t get to, helping make him one of the league-leaders in dWAR over the past few years, despite missing a healthy number of games. That defense gives him a leg up on the competition.

As good as Mike Trout is on defense, he’s not as good as Buxton. J.D. Martinez is best served as DH this point. Ohtani is a good pitcher, but Buxton is a better defender than Ohtani is a pitcher. Jose Ramirez isn’t even in the same category. If defense matters, and it should, Buxton’s defense will give him a huge boost. Plus we get plays like this:

Reason No. 3 for the Minnesota Twins’ Byron Buxton to win MVP: He’s easily the Twins’ Most Valuable Player

The most valuable player in baseball should also be the most valuable player on his team, and so far, that screams Byron Buxton. Nelson Cruz has been his usually stellar self, but as good as Nelson has been, Buxton has been that much better. Here are the compared lines:

  • Buxton: 19 G, .408/.447/.859, 8 HR, 14 RBI, 272 OPS+, 3 SB
  • Cruz: 24 G, .325/.374/.675, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 200 OPS+

It’s very surprising how much better Buxton has been in 19 games than Cruz has been in 24. This type of play gets you awards, including MVP. All of these factors come together to put Buxton at the front of the MVP race.