Remember when touted young Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was the butt of smarmy “Buston” jokes?

Yeah. About that.

It’s too early to declare Buxton anything—boom, bust or in between. He’s just 22 years old, with a scant 404 MLB plate appearances to his name.

But after some significant early struggles, the 2012 first-round pick is showing flashes of the star so many believed he’d become.

Buxton made his feverishly anticipated debut with the Twins last year and finished with a .209/.250/.326 slash line in 46 games. He began this season on the big league roster but hit just .156 in 17 April contests with 24 strikeouts and was shipped back to Triple-A.

Things didn’t go much better after a late-May call-up, and by early August, Buxton and his .193 average were demoted again. As Wayne Cavadi of Today’s Knuckleball noted:

People grew frustrated with Buxton. The Twins, unfortunately, have had some big prospects flail out and not reach expectations of late — take Aaron Hicks for example — and the word bust was being thrown around pretty quickly. People were quick — too quick perhaps — to wonder if Buxton was simply a Quad-A type of hitter who wouldn’t be able to hack big league pitching. 

He returned Sept. 1 when rosters expanded. And if there isn’t cartoonish smoke rising from the barrel of his bat, there should be.

In 12 September games, Buxton has 15 hits, including four doubles and five home runs. He’s driven in 13 runs and scored 12. And he’s raised his OPS for the season by 114 points, from .561 to .675.

“I think one thing we’ve seen in the last few days is he’s shown a little bit more aggressiveness,” Twins skipper Paul Molitor said, per’s Scott Merkin and Do-Hyoung Park. “I think his swing looks a little bit better in terms of quickness and reacting to pitches and recognizing pitches.”

Buxton flashed game-changing speed and made some spectacular defensive plays in his previous MLB forays. The defensive metrics like him in center field, a premium position. Now, he’s layering on the pop and getting hits in bunches. He resembles the guy veteran outfielder Torii Hunter branded “Mike Trout Two” in March 2015, per Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller.

Are we getting ahead of ourselves after only a handful of games? Sure. Watch this clip, though, and don’t get giddy. Go on, we dare you:

It’s been a dismal season for the Twins. Minnesota was a surprise postseason contender in 2015 but has backslid to the worst record in baseball and a possible 100-loss campaign.

Buxton‘s emergence could be the shiniest of silver linings, particularly if he keeps raking over these final few weeks.

His MLB results are new, but his approach hasn’t changed much. As Fake Teams’ Rob Parker pointed out, while Buxton has increased his contact rates in September, his swinging strike rate has also gone up slightly, and he’s chasing more balls out of the zone. 

It’s a tiny sample, but it suggests Buxton isn’t a radically different player from the one who yo-yoed between the minors and the big leagues.

FanGraphsAugust Fagerstrom noted that Buxton has re-employed a leg kick in his swing that he utilized in high school but the Twins mostly eliminated during his development. Maybe there’s something to that.

Here’s the bottom line, swing mechanics and sample-size caveats aside: Results are results. These September stats leap off the sheet. Given Buxton‘s age and enviable set of tools, there’s ample cause for optimism.  

We might well be witnessing the emergence of a superstar.

At the very least, we can put the “Buston” jokes on the shelf and leave them there.


All statistics current as of Tuesday, Sept. 13, and courtesy of, FanGraphs and unless otherwise noted.

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