Someone Grab A Fire Extinguisher
Byron Buxton went 5-for-5 with his eighth home run, eighth double of the season, and a stolen base in Minnesota's 1-2 win over the Indians on Wednesday. The only hitters to record five hits that included a home run and stolen base while wearing a Twins uniform were Jacque Jones in 2003 and Boileryard Clarke in 1901 (No, Boileryard was not a typo).
There is not a single hitter on the planet hotter than Buxton and all you can do right now is sit back and enjoy the performance. The former first-round pick (second overall) is slashing .438/.471/.938 through 17 games and has posted the highest OPS in Twins history over that span:
2021: Byron Buxton, 1.409
2009: Joe Mauer, 1.288
1966: Tony Oliva, 1.270
2005: Justin Morneau, 1.266
Buxton currently boasts an otherworldly 24.4 percent barrel rate, 64.4 percent hard-hit rate, and .809 expected slugging percentage. Those marks are not only elite, they are the highest marks in all of baseball. It’s obvious that this level of excellence can’t be sustained, but as stated above, you should simply sit back and enjoy the performance.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli placed Buxton in the leadoff position for the second time this season on Wednesday and suggested this could become a regular thing against southpaws this season. This could open up the possibility of more stolen bases down the road if Minnesota gives the green light. After all, Buxton was able to beat out an infield single earlier in the game with a sprint speed of 31.6 feet per second (30 is elite). It remains to be seen if aggressive base stealing is being tempered intentionally in order to keep the outfielder healthy.
In fantasy leagues, selling high would seem like a difficult decision to make. After all, who would want to move a player with a 257 wRC+ (157 percent better than the average major leaguer) and .535 wOBA? That decision comes down to the eye of the beholder.
What should you expect from Buxton moving forward? Popular projections had the Twins superstar batting .265 with around 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Do you expect much better from April 29 until the last game of the season? You easily could at this point, as Buxton has proven to have elite power with the upside to win a Most Valuable Player award.
However, there is still an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Byron Buxton, at 27-years-old, has played over 92 games just once in his career. The most electric player in baseball has already missed time this season with patella tendonitis and a hamstring injury in addition to cracking his tooth on a steak. In his career, Buxton has missed extensive time with shoulder inflammation, right and left wrist injuries, toe fractures, thumb strains, groin strains, and concussions. They say that the biggest predictor of future injuries is past injuries. This may be an unfortunate point of view to hold, especially when talking about true five-tool talent. That is why this is in the eye of the beholder. You can gamble that Buxton has arrived and at 27-years-old can finally stay healthy, or you can cash in your chips for three to four times their original value.
One thing is for sure. Watching Byron Buxton play baseball this season has been a privilege. Hopefully, everyone can put fantasy baseball aside in order to truly appreciate what a special talent has been doing on the diamond in April. Enjoy the ride.
Pitchers with an EDGE
Clayton Kershaw vs CIN - 7 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K
The future hall of famer shut down the Reds lineup, garnering 23 swings and misses during the contest, with 15 coming on the slider. The southpaw is now 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 38 2/3 innings with 39 strikeouts this season.
Sonny Gray vs LAD - 5 2/3 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 11 K
Sonny Gray generated an 80 percent whiff rate on his curveball Wednesday with 12 whiffs in 15 swings. Along with 15 called strikes on his sinker, the right-hander earned a 44 percent CSW across his entire arsenal against the Dodgers lineup.
Jacob deGrom vs BOS - 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K
The Mets ace was once again a hard-luck loser as his offense could not get anything going against Nick Pivetta and the Red Sox bullpen. The lack of run support did not stop the two-time Cy Young award winner from turning in yet another quality start, this time without his best stuff. An overall 31 percent CSW is acceptable, but well below deGrom’s lofty standard. It just goes to show how amazing the right-hander is in that he can shut down an offense even on an off night.
Tyler Glasnow vs OAK - 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 10 K
The Rays ace continues his dominant April with another scoreless effort with double-digit strikeouts. Glasnow was able to tame the Oakland lineup using mostly his four-seam fastball and newly added slider, throwing just eight curveballs all game. The right-hander did generate three whiffs on all three swings taken against the curveball, but his 40 percent CSW for the game was mostly on the back of his other weapons.
Huascar Ynoa vs CHC - 5 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K
Ynoa also hit a home run during the game for good measure, which would have been more than enough to put away the Cubs who were shut out even after the 22-year-old left the game. Ynoa has now put together two impressive rebound performances after a six-run hiccup over four innings vs the Cubs two weeks ago. The right-hander now carries a 2.96 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 27 1/3 innings with 34 strikeouts. A limited arsenal may come back to haunt him at some point, but sometimes that does not seem to matter if your two-pitch offerings are effective enough.
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Hitters with an EDGE
Freddie Freeman vs CHC - 4-for-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R
His home run off Alec Mills was Freeman’s seventh of the season but he still has a .247 batting average. Not to worry, the all-star first baseman still holds a .920 OPS and is primed to kick things into another gear once the weather starts the heat up.
Austin Riley vs CHC - 4-for-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R
The window to buy low has been slammed shut with the 24-year-old now batting .286 with a .400 on-base percentage after a rough start to the season.
Trea Turner vs TOR - 4-for-5, 2B, 2 R
The Nationals shortstop has been on fire all month with a slash line of .316/.364/.585 with six home runs, four doubles, and five stolen bases over 82 at-bats. The 27-year-old currently ranks number one in baseball in sprint speed at 30.8 feet per second while barreling the ball 12.1 percent of the time. Turner is making those who invested a first-round pick in fantasy very happy so far this season, even while on one of the bottom-five run-scoring offenses in baseball.
Austin Riley, 3B Atlanta Braves (Available in 58 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues)
Early season panic leads to poor decisions. Austin Riley should have never been dropped and is currently available in more than half of Yahoo leagues. The 24-year-old got off to a slow start in 2021 but is now 10-for-23 (.435) with three home runs, eight RBI, six walks, and only six strikeouts over his last eight games. The majority of fantasy shareholders drafted the Braves third baseman for a boost in power and there is no reason for that confidence to waiver. Riley has a track record of improving over time at each level of the minor leagues and has shown improvement over the last two seasons at the major league level. The weather is starting to heat up and you are going to want Austin Riley in your lineup when he takes off.
Matt Barnes struck out the side in the ninth to finish a team shutout over the Mets and Jacob deGrom on Wednesday. It took the righty just 12 pitches to strike out the side and he now has a 50 percent strikeout rate on the season.
Hector Neris pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the Cardinals to pick up his fifth save of the season. The right-hander needed just nine pitches to put away the side and now carries a 1.69 ERA on the season.
Josh Staumont appears to be the guy in Kansas City after picking up a four-out save Wednesday with two strikeouts. It’s possible the Royals can move in another direction if the right-hander were to falter, but in the meantime, they seem quite comfortable allowing Staumont to run with the ninth-inning role.
Raisel Iglesias whittled his ERA to an even six with a scoreless inning over the Rangers to pick up his fourth save of the season. The right-hander has seven scoreless appearances this year, but three two-run outings have put a scar on his overall surface statistics that will last for a while.
Thursday’s Match Of The Day
Trevor Bauer vs MIL (3-0, 2.53 ERA, 45 Strikeouts)
Eric Lauer vs LAD (Season Debut)
Bauer vs Lauer sounds like it should be a fun matchup when you say it out loud, but on paper, it should probably be a blowout. The Padres left-hander is coming off a disappointing 2020 season while Bauer is coming off a Cy Young-winning season in Cincinnati. The Dodgers righty is also 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 25 punchouts over 19 innings over his past three games, limiting opponents to a .138 batting average. So why on earth is this the matchup of the day? Eric Lauer, while not a threat to the naked eye, is 5-0 with a 2.11 career ERA against the Dodgers. You can disregard that as an anomaly but it’s a stat that both Lauer and the Dodgers will be aware of before game time.
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American League Quick Hits: George Springer was activated from the injured list and made his season debut with the Blue Jays … Yordan Alvarez is sidelined due to health and safety protocols according to Astros manager Dusty Baker … Anthony Santander (ankle) is improving but still expected to be out until mid-May … Royals prospect Bobby Witt Jr. is expected to begin the season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas … Rays prospect Shane McClanahan will be called up Thursday to start vs the Athletics … Indians optioned Logan Allen to the team’s alternate training site after the left-hander allowed six runs over 1 1/3 innings Wednesday vs the Twins … Hyun-Jin Ryu was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right glute strain … Clint Frazier hit his first home run of the season in a win over the Orioles … Mitch Haniger was scratched from the Mariners lineup with no reason given … James Paxton underwent his second Tommy John surgery over the past week … Angels catcher Max Stassi was activated from the injured list … Rowdy Tellez was optioned to the the Blue Jays' alternate training site due to George Springer occupying the designated hitter role for the time being in addition to a schedule full of left-handers.
National League Quick Hits: Jazz Chisholm was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring injury … Mike Soroka (shoulder) started light throwing according to Braves manager Brian Snitker, but still has no timetable for a return … Garrett Cooper left Wednesday’s game with an apparent foot injury … Brandon Nimmo rejoined the Mets lineup after missing several games with a minor hip impingement … Bryce Harper was struck in the face by a 97 mile per hour fastball, but was ok after being treated at a nearby hospital … Ryan Weathers was removed from his start after the first inning with diminished spin and velocity but no further details were given … Wil Myers was a late scratch from the Padres lineup Wednesday for undisclosed reasons … The Padres activated Austin Nola from the injured list and optioned Luis Campusano to the team's alternate training site … Mike Yastrzemski was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain … Kole Calhoun (hamstring) and Taylor Widener (groin) were placed on the injured list by Arizona while Dalton Varsho and Riley Smith were recalled from the team’s alternate training site.