Thursday, December 19, 2013

Comparing Byron Buxton

Looking back at minor leaguers to find a comparison to Byron Buxton is difficult. Looking at the fact he reached High A by the time he was 19 and did well shows unusual talent. I wanted to see if there were any other players that had similar success.

For this analysis, I looked at three skills, K rate, Isolated power and speed. Speed is determined by adding triples and stolen bases and subtracting caught stealing. It's a ballpark number just to classify if a guy can run or not. I found three similar players: Andrew Machado, Elvis Andrus and Felix Pie

The good news is that Buxton had a lower K rate than any of these guys as well as hitting for more power than any. Not by a lot though. His ISO was .147 compared to Pie's .144. Andrus and Machado didn't have much power. Machado isn't a good match. He was rushed up the ladder due to his defensive skills. He never had much for offensive skill other than making good contact.

Elvis Andrus is not a horrible comparison. Similar pedigree, similar athletically gifted player that will stay up the middle. Buxton seems to be a better offensive player and have less swing and miss. Considering the amount of polish Buxton has, a year in AA then a starting job in 2015 seems reasonable.

The tough one is Felix Pie. If that happens, it could crush the dreams of hopeful Minnesotans but when you look past the surface, it seems unlikely. While I am not one to push that players need to walk, Pie needed to walk more. I don't see walking as a skill but more of a by-product of a good approach. If you walk at a high rate and don't hit well, I see that as a detriment, as you are likely being too passive. 

Pie struck out about 5% more often than Buxton and was generally more raw in his offensive skills. Pie also walked considerably less frequently than Buxton while generating similar power numbers. This makes me think that if Pie would have improved on his approach, his offensive ceiling could have grown beyond Buxton's, but that is an unusual path. I haven't seen many players that have that type of large change in their approach. Growth and improvement, yes, but not an overall change.

Scouting the two players, Buxton probably had a slight edge on speed and power. Buxton was much more successful stealing bases and seems generally more polished offensively. Pie was slated to progress a level at a time due to his need for refinement. This isn't true of Buxton.

Reading scouting reports on Pie, it screams out that Pie was flawed but athletic, with the ability to overcome. The longer he was in the minors, the less obvious the improvements were. He just didn't have the feel for the game to go along with the skills. That happens. Some of the most skilled players just don't have that intuition that makes many of the games best who they are. I think Byron Buxton does and I would be surprised if he doesn't succeed more than any one mentioned here. I expect him to do well in AA this season and make a run at starting the season in the majors in 2015. It'e even possible he gets a september call-up this season.

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