All aboard! The train from Baxley, Georgia is full-steam ahead and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
Byron Buxton, a Baxley native, has used the past two months to re-convince people that’s he’s the real deal. Drafted by the Twins No. 2 overall in 2012, Buxton torched minor-league pitching before struggling to hit in the big leagues.
Aside from a hot September in 2016, Buxton’s first two MLB seasons, and the first three months of this season, were depressingly underwhelming at the plate.
Then Buxton went off like a firework on July 4 and has been killing opposing pitchers ever since. He’s turned what looked like another bust of a season into a train ride that appears destined for an exclusive club of 23-year-old center fielders who've finished a season with a WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) of 4.7 or higher.
According to Aaron Gleeman, Mike Trout, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones are the only 23-year-old center fielders to do that since 1990, and Buxton is on pace to join them.
The big difference is that Griffey, Trout and Jones were in their fifth MLB seasons at 23 years old. Buxton is in his third season.
Enter Barry Bonds, who, like Buxton, was 23 years old during his third season.
We did the digging and found Bonds’ best 34-game stretch from his 23-year-old season in 1988 is extremely comparable to Buxton's current 34-game hot streak.
You can double-check our work by looking up Bonds’ numbers in a 34-game stretch in 1988 (Games 29-63).
For the '88 season, Bonds hit .283 with 24 homers, 30 doubles, 5 triples, 72 walks and 82 strikeouts. Buxton is going to finish well shy in doubles and walks and way ahead in strikeouts. But again, this is a comparison based on Buxton's current hot streak - not the full season.
Trout was basically a stud his entire third season en route to his second consecutive runner-up finish to Miguel Cabrera for MVP. Griffey, as seen in the table below, went on a Babe Ruth-like 34-game tear in 1991 and Jones put up similar numbers to Buxton over his best 34-game stretch in 1998.
Buxton still has a lot to prove to put himself in a class with greats like Griffey, Bonds, Trout and Jones, but if his past 34 games are any indication of what could be coming, the future is very, very bright.