Twins center fielder Byron Buxton was slated to begin this season at Double-A and perhaps be knocking on the door to the majors right now, but instead the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball missed the first two-plus months of the year with a spring training wrist injury.
When he finally returned from the disabled list the Twins decided to send Buxton back to high Single-A, where he dominated at the end of last season by hitting .326 as a teenager. But this time around he got off to a slow start there, caught fire for a couple weeks, and then struggled again lately.
Overall he hit .240 with a .718 OPS and 33 strikeouts in 30 games, but the Twins have decided Buxton is ready for Double-A. He’s been promoted to the Eastern League four months before his 21st birthday and will finish the season playing for a New Britain team on which the average player is 25.5 years old.
Buxton is still viewed as the best prospect in baseball by most prominent sources and remains on track for stardom, but the wrist injury cost him a bunch of development time and probably erased whatever chance he had of debuting for the Twins this season as a 20-year-old.
Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.
Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.
Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.