White, black, Puerto Rican

Everybody just a freakin'

Good times a-rolling all night, all night ...

Prince, "Uptown"

"Uptown" isn't one of Prince's better known songs, but that excerpt can stand as a description of the Twins' vibrant young outfield: Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario.

It's not the best outfield in the league — that would be Boston's trio of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benitendi — but these Twins are young, talented, emerging and a joy to watch.

None is truly a star yet; each has an obvious flaw to overcome to reach that status, which is part of the fun.

Rosario's primary issue is plate discipline. The left fielder has gotten better: he's drawn 23 walks in just over 390 plate appearances so far this year (figures through Saturday's game). He drew 27 walks combined in 2015 and 2016 (828 PA). Not surprisingly, the improved plate discipline has resulted in big increases not only in his on-base percentage but in his batting average and slugging percentage.

There's still room to grow. He still goes a-hacking on occasion, particularly against fellow left-handers. One would like to see a walk every 10 times up or so. But he's second on the team in OPS (on-base plus slugging) as it is. 

Buxton's numbers this year may never overcome his truly horrific April, when he hit just .147. But even when he was an automatic out, his defense made him a must-play centerfielder. And he now appears (as he did last September) to be unlocking his toolbox at the plate.

The Twins have been blessed over the past 35 years with some incredible defensive centerfielders: Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter, Carlos Gomez (Denard Span being a step or two behind that trio). Buxton is better than any of them.

I'd sure like to see him stop running full-tilt into walls, however. He's had one significant concussion already in his career. 

It's not a coincidence that the late July fade that turned the Twins to trade deadline sellers came with Buxton sidelined.

Even as a .230 hitter (his batting average entering Sunday), he's neck-and-neck with Miguel Sano in WAR (wins above replacement) as figured by Baseball Reference as the best position player on the roster.

Kepler's flaw is left-handed pitching. The German's OPS against right-handers this season is a gaudy .861; against lefties, an anemic .375. He's had less than 100 plate appearances against lefties on the season, so that specific figure isn't highly reliable, but there's no question that southpaws turn off his switch.

(Rosario used to have a similiar issue, but he's hitting better than .290 against lefties now; not much power against them, but still competitive.)

Kepler's 2016 breakout immediately followed a batting practice session in Yankee Stadium in which he was trying to pull everything, after which Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson accosted him: I'm 70 and I can do that. You want to impress me, hit 'em to center and left center. 

Judging from the overshifts Kepler's facing these days, he might do well to remember that lesson.

So yeah, there are flaws in each. But this is a keeper of an outfield, fully capable of propelling this flawed squad into the postseason. Good times a-rolling all night.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Trending Video

Recommended for you