LOS ANGELES – It seemed like it would never happen. OK, so we always knew he had all the tools. But with Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, there was always something in the way. Injuries, mostly. Inconsistent play, sure. A low batting average and high strikeout total? Yeah, that stuff happened.
Still, Buxton was always just way too talented to never make the All-Star team, right?
In 2022, his eighth big-league season, Buxton is finally here. And he’s a starter now, as an injury replacement (for Angels star Mike Trout). He found that out at the last minute, during the Twins’ game on Sunday.
“The scoreboard, yesterday,” Buxton said Monday when asked how he found out he was a starter in the 2022 All-Star Game. “I wanna say it was the third inning, maybe. When everyone else found out is when I found out.”
Some might say it was a long time coming for the 28-year-old. After all, he was the No. 2 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft out of high school and his ceiling landed him in the top spot of prospect rankings for years.
Getting to this point was mostly a matter of staying on the field. Buxton is a dynamic all-around athlete. He’s a superb defender and baserunner. He packs a ton of power in his spindly frame. He was so good in 2021 that he posted 4.5 WAR in only 61 games.
Therein lied the issue for so many years. Buxton played in 140 games in 2017. Past that, his next highest MLB total is 92 games. Even in the 60-game, pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he missed 21 games.
This season, Buxton has managed to mostly stay in the lineup. He’s at 73 games right now. He’s hit 23 home runs with a 132 OPS+ and 2.9 WAR. And he’s been an integral part of the Twins holding onto first place throughout most of the season.
“It was a special moment,” Buxton said of being named a starter. “I’m just blessed. I’m not too much of a person to go out and think ‘I need to be a starter,’ but the opportunity to start for the All-Star team of the AL is a special moment for me. It’s like a dream come true.”
He noted that making the team in the first place, in light of all the injury-related adversity he faced was emotional, though his buddies in the clubhouse moved things in a celebratory direction.
“My teammates helped me put a little perspective on it. It made it easier for me to enjoy it.”