Byron Buxton (MIN): 5-5, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB.
Buxton appeared in last Thursday’s Batters Box column, in which I suggested that regression may be on the way. Since I wrote that, Buxton is 9/20 and has shown no signs of slowing down. It is clear that Buxton will come back to the same atmosphere as the rest of the league at some point, but I am not sure if he will completely come back down to earth. So many numbers pop off the screen when looking at what Buxton has done this month, but what sticks out to me is his 24% barrel rate, good for fifth in the league.
A ball is considered barreled if the combination of its exit velocity and launch angle has led to a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage. Major League Baseball states that for a batted ball to be barreled it must have an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. The higher the exit velocity, the wider range of launch angle expands. The ability to consistently put the barrel of the bat on the baseball is what separates the all-stars from the rest of the league. In total, Buxton has barreled 12 balls on 221 pitches. Last year, he totaled one more barrel, 13, against twice as many pitches, 443. In 2019, Buxton barreled just 16 balls on 1,031 pitches.
How did Buxton make such a drastic change in such a short amount of time? Well, he improved his batting average against fastballs dramatically. In 2020 Buxton hit just .186 against fastballs, this season he has an insane average of .586 when facing fastballs. A fastball is the easiest pitch to barrel because of its high velocity and relative lack of break. Last season, Buxton’s average launch angle and exit velocity while facing fastballs were 30 degrees and 91.7 mph. This season, his average launch angle has been cut to 13 degrees, turning fly balls into line drives, and his exit velocity in 2021 has bumped up to 101.2 mph. A 10 mph improvement on exit velocity over one offseason is incredible. Last night, Buxton put on another show, going 5-5, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB. Every night the Twins take the field, Buxton shows there is nothing he can’t do, and right now he is looking like the steal of the draft.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday
Mitch Garver (MIN): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
The slumping catcher went deep twice last night, breaking an 0-14 stretch over his last five games. After hitting an impressive 31 home runs in the 2019 season, Garver struggled through an injury-plagued 2020 and has yet to pick it up at the plate offensively this year. Since his xwOBA, xBA, and whiff rate all in the bottom quadrant of the league, there is no reason to believe he will make a meaningful turn-around at the plate. If you have Garver in one of the 37% of leagues he is rostered in, it may be time to let go.
Amed Rosario (CLE): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI.
Rosario was the lone bright spot for Cleveland in its 10-2 blowout loss to Minnesota. The young shortstop had two base hits, both for extra bases. Rosario went yard in the second inning, then followed it up with a double in the fifth. He scored both of Cleveland’s two runs in the game. To say Rosario has been a step back from Lindor at shortstop would be a bit of an understatement. He is batting just .175 on the year and his xwOBA is just in the seventh percentile of the league.
Clint Frazier (NYY): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.
The trade of Mike Tauchman has further solidified Red Thunder’s place in pinstripes. Frazier was an electric prospect when the Yankees traded star reliever Andrew Miller for him back in 2016. Although his numbers are lackluster so far, Frazier is starting to build an offensive identity as a full-time starter this season. He put together a multi-hit game last night, including his first home run of the season. His .222 BABIP suggests better days may be ahead for the outfielder.
Bo Bichette (TOR): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.
Bichette’s eighth-inning home run was the second and final run for the Blue Jays in an 8-2 loss to the Nationals. He also had a hit in the third inning, which is notable because it snapped an abysmal 0-15 stretch. After a hot start to the season, Bichette has come back down to earth. His numbers right now reflect his preseason projections and although he is the fifth-highest scoring shortstop in fantasy baseball right now, managers of his are left looking for more.
Gio Urshela (NYY): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI.
Five Yankees had multiple hits last night, but it is Gio Urshela who gets the nod for this column. Urshela has been one of the best hitters on the Yankees this year, which is not saying much, considering the team’s offensive issues. That said, the lineup is starting to turn it around. New York has won 5 of its last 7 games, and Urshela is 6-21 with two home runs and eight RBI during the stretch.
Ozzie Albies (ATL): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI.
Albies was one of many offensive contributors in Atlanta’s 10-0 rout over the Chicago Cubs. The second baseman earned his first three-hit game of the season last night, falling a triple short of the cycle. Albies is batting just .213 so far, but his underlying numbers indicate a breakout is coming. Albies’ expected batting average is .317, over 100 points higher than his actual batting average. His BABIP is a mere .206, and his xwOBA is better than 81% of the league. Albies is an interesting trade target in any league that has an owner willing to part ways with him.
Jorge Soler (KC): 3-5, 2 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Soler was included in last Thursday’s edition of Batter’s Box, in which I was hopeful that last week’s three-hit game would spark an offensive turnaround. Soler has not provided any consistency in the week since that column but now has three-hit games with a home run on each of the last two Wednesdays. While there is no reason to start Soler right now, maybe you can play him in daily lineups next Wednesday.
Austin Riley (ATL): 4-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Riley has been red hot over the course of the last two weeks. In his last nine games, Riley is 12-26 with three home runs, his total for the season. Over that stretch, he has an even 1:1 BB/K, showing that plate discipline and control are the keys to his recent tear. Riley was almost perfect at the dish last night, he had four hits and finished just a triple shy of the cycle. If you need infield help, Riley is available in about 50% of leagues and could provide some pop to your lineup.
Guillermo Heredia (ATL): 3-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB.
Heredia is putting up the best numbers of his career so far. Last night was no different. Atlanta’s center fielder reached base four times as part of a three-hit effort. During April, Heredia is batting .333 with just 11 strikeouts to his eight walks. Heredia is owned in just 11% of leagues on ESPN; as long as he’s playing every day, I see no reason not to stash him on your bench.