Byron Buxton was a surprising player in fantasy baseball circles in 2020. He was what everyone expected, but also a bit of an enigma. He played in just 39 games, as he missed a few games at the end of August, but his 13 home runs in 2020 were just three homes runs away from his career high. Back in 2017, he hit 16 home runs, but it took him 140 games to do it! On the other hand, from 2017-2019, he was 48-for-52 in stolen base attempts across 255 games. However, in 2020, he attempted just three stolen bases, successfully swiping two. Prior to 2020, Buxton was a speed guy with durability issues and an emerging power bat. In 2020, he was a power bat with durability issues and minimal speed. What in the world!?

Let’s start with the home runs here. His launch angle was up, which helps, and his barrel rate was through the roof. A barrel rate of 13.5 percent is exceptional! His 13.5 percent barrel rate was higher than Luke Voit (13.1%) and Franmil Reyes (12.9%) and his 9.6 percent barrels per plate appearance was higher than Mike Trout (9.1%) and on par with Marcell Ozuna (9.7%). At the dish, his Statcast metrics were exceptional for 2020, and there’s no denying that. If he can pick up where he left off to begin the 2021 season, and of course stay healthy, Buxton has elite upside.

His barrel rate against off-speed offerings tanked in 2020, but for the sake of this and being Pro-Buxton, just look at his barrel rate against fastballs and breaking stuff.

The red line recovered after recent seasons, but that blue line is encouraging. It’s been steadily increasing the past few years before jumping in 2020. Against breaking pitches, he slugged .826 in 2021, and seven of his 13 home runs came off these offerings.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Buxton. He posted a miniscule 1.5 percent walk rate, which is really, really low. And while his 26.7 percent strikeout rate is below his career average, it was up a bit from 2019. Even as the biggest Buxton guy on the East coast, I can admit that he’s probably lucky that his strikeout rate was 26.7 percent. It could have been, and probably should have been higher.

That chase graphic is alarming. He left the zone at a career high for each category of pitches. Getting these numbers back down to where they had been will help with cutting that strikeout percentage back closer to 23-to-24 percent, and seeing more ball fours and strolling leisurely to first base.

I’m not worried about Buxton only stealing two bags in 2020. It was a weird year, and in 2021, he’s going to run more frequently. The popular projection systems expect a return to normalcy here for Buxton, so you should as well. There are a lot of “what ifs” with Buxton and 2021 could be the year everything comes together for the outfielder. His best year to date was 2017 when he hit 16 home runs and swiped 29 bags with a .253/.314/.413 slash line. Buxton is an outfielder that not only I am praying for a season with a clean bill of health, but also targeting in every single draft. This is the year he joins the 20/20 club and he has 20/30 or even 25/30 upside.

Buxton is currently the 29th outfielder off the board and around pick 116, he presents a nice buying opportunity to maximize your return on investment. Monitoring his average draft position will be critical as it has fluctuated since late 2020. Take a look for yourself, courtesy of NFBC data.

His ADP was slowly moving earlier and earlier in drafts, but since late December and into the new year, his ADP is slowly but surely sliding back later and later in drafts. Perhaps it’s the lengthy injury history or just the disbelief that Buxton can actually put it together after being in the league since 2015.

Buxton has upside in fantasy baseball that could put him amongst pretty rare company. However, he’s been in the big leagues since 2015 and only has one season where he’s logged more than 300 at-bats (2017). Buxton is a guy I target every year, and if you’re like me, you’ll be caught dead before you miss his big season that you’ve been waiting to happen for over half a decade. While he does have 20/25 or 20/30 upside, Buxton should have no issue joining the 15/15 club, and if he can stay in the strike zone, more walks and less strikeouts should be in his future. His floor is obviously incredibly low, but you should feel comfortable with a 15/20 season for Buxton with an average around .255.

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