Collette Calls: The Difference Between Buxton & Souza

Collette Calls: The Difference Between Buxton & Souza

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

This is my absolute least favorite time of the calendar year to write about fantasy baseball. We are two weeks into the season, and it is too early to do anything on your roster unless:

The player has an injury that will cause him to miss significant playing time

The player is not getting any playing time

In the first three weeks of the season, those are the only legitimate reasons to remove someone from your team who you were adamant about rostering just last month. Remember the rule of thumb: you give a player 26 weeks minus the round you drafted him in. So, for the last pick of your 23 man roster, they are on two weeks notice. The 22nd-round pick has until the end of the month to get his act together.

I feel as if I post this video each April, but I'm doing it again because it still makes me laugh when I watch it:

We have way too many players stumbling out of the gate to list here and explain, but since three of my important teams are built around Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez, I feel your pain, brothers and sisters. What I would like to focus on here is the first significant sample size creeping us on us: strikeout rate.

We only need 60 plate appearances for strikeout rates to stabilize, so if players are striking out a lot more or a lot less than they have in the

This is my absolute least favorite time of the calendar year to write about fantasy baseball. We are two weeks into the season, and it is too early to do anything on your roster unless:

The player has an injury that will cause him to miss significant playing time

The player is not getting any playing time

In the first three weeks of the season, those are the only legitimate reasons to remove someone from your team who you were adamant about rostering just last month. Remember the rule of thumb: you give a player 26 weeks minus the round you drafted him in. So, for the last pick of your 23 man roster, they are on two weeks notice. The 22nd-round pick has until the end of the month to get his act together.

I feel as if I post this video each April, but I'm doing it again because it still makes me laugh when I watch it:

We have way too many players stumbling out of the gate to list here and explain, but since three of my important teams are built around Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez, I feel your pain, brothers and sisters. What I would like to focus on here is the first significant sample size creeping us on us: strikeout rate.

We only need 60 plate appearances for strikeout rates to stabilize, so if players are striking out a lot more or a lot less than they have in the past here soon, then we have reasons to be excited or concerned. We currently have fewer than 30 regular-season plate appearances to play with, but if we do combine the muddied waters of spring training data with the regular season play, we are over 60 for many regulars. Those spring training stats are muddied because major leaguers are not always facing off against major league quality pitching in those games, but the data is useful enough. I would like to focus on two players who are either showing early signs of improvement or early signs of concern for strikeout rates.

Let's start with everyone's obvious concern: Byron Buxton.

Buxton had many excited late last year when he came back up during roster expansion and hit .287/.357/.653 to close the season, albeit with a 34 percent strikeout rate. He had an excellent spring training in Fort Myers hitting .283/.365/.543 in 46 plate appearance with five walks and 11 strikeouts. Then, the regular season began.

Entering Friday, Buxton had struck out in 19 of his 34 plate appearances while walking once and has just a single and a double to his name. Counting spring training, Buxton has a 38 percent strikeout rate, which is not that much higher than where he was last year. The problem is, the March data includes at-bats against inexperienced pitchers, and he has looked downright lost in April. After all, he has a 54 percent strikeout rate this season. Five-four. Javier Baez is even cringing while staring at Buxton's stat line this season.

The heatmap below shows the frequency of pitches that Buxton has swung at this season:

He is getting beat on pitches down and away with a high frequency after pitchers set him up with pitches up. At-bats have looked ugly as it does not appear he has a plan at the plate, and he ends up swinging at stuff like this to get himself out:

Buxton has options left and despite his tremendous upside and athleticism, it does not seem likely the Twins can keep him up at the big league level while he looks like this. They farmed out Byung-ho Park last year after he got off to a horrendous start, so they could do the same with Buxton as long as he continues to strike out at this alarming rate. The scary thing is, he is not even the worst swinging-strike rate in the majors because that honor is owned by Danny Espinosa.

Moving up the gulf coast, there is Steven Souza Jr. He had a good spring, hitting .370/.408/.630 with a 27 percent strikeout rate. While that rate seems high, it is much lower than the 34 percent rate he had the last two seasons. Souza worked on a simplified approach in camp with new hitting coach (and UCF grad) Chad Mottola to just live in the moment rather than overthinking things. After all, Crash Davis taught us thinking can only hurt the ball club, and Souza's inconsistent and strikeout-prone approach has not helped the Rays nor fantasy owners the last two seasons.

We will have enough plate appearances for Souza's strikeout rate to stabilize by the middle of next week, but the current numbers bear watching because the new approach appears to be working.

SEASONPAPSWING%MISS%CONTACT%InPLAY%CHASE%SwStrk%
20154261,717463367292615
20164681,836503466302717
201738141472674412412

He is swinging nearly as frequently as he has in the past, but he is coming up empty a lot less than his historical rate and thus putting more pitches into play. One thing that stands out in watching him this season is how he is looking to take pitches back up the middle third of the field rather than pull everything.

This single the other day is a pitch where he looks a lot like Jayson Werth at the plate, whereas last year he rolled that pitch over to the left side of the infield:

Two weeks ago at drafts, people reached for Byron Buxton and pretty much ignored Steven Souza Jr. Buxton went $21 in AL Tout while Souza went $9. Buxton went $10 in Mixed Tout while Souza went in the reserves. Buxton was drafted in the 10th round of Mixed Tout draft while Souza went in the 26th round. It is early in the season, but one guy looks as lost as ever while the other guy appears to have made some improvements to reduce the swing-and-miss in his game.

It does not take a long time for strikeout rate to stabilize, so if Buxton and Souza are at these rates in the middle of next week it deserves your attention. I put my money where my mouth is and spent 13 percent of my NFBC free-agent budget to roster Souza and cut Steve Pearce. As someone who has seen hundreds of Souza's plate appearances, he looks like a changed man at the plate this season and might finally make the double-awful trade where the Rays moved Will Myers to briefly hold Trea Turner to then acquire Souza not look like complete highway robbery by two franchises.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls, as esd the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
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