Can Keon Broxton Make Enough Contact?

Out of nowhere, center fielder Keon Broxton has made a case for himself as Milwaukee’s best player in August. He has four homers and 11 stolen bases in just 24 games this month, and his .414 OBP leads all Brewers regulars to go with a .292 batting average and a .514 slugging percentage. After going 0-for-16 in his first stint with the big club in April, Broxton has turned his season entirely around. But can it possibly stick?

Broxton struck out 11 times in those 16 at-bats back in April, a contact issue that looked set to doom his young career. He’s still a whiff machine — 28 strikeouts in 24 games — but has disguised the flaw with 15 walks and eight extra-base hits. Broxton’s 36.2 percent strikeout rate for the season ranks behind only Anthony Gose, Oswaldo Arcia and Byron Buxton among players with at least 100 plate appearances, and even his August success has come despite a 32.2 percent rate.

Baseball-Reference’s excellent Play-Index tool doesn’t have an option to search for batting seasons by strikeout rate, but it can search by at-bats per strikeout (AB/SO), a close enough proxy, although it penalizes Broxton a bit for his excellent discipline. In August, Broxton has struck out 28 times in 72 at-bats, a 2.57 AB/SO. Is producing at a major league level — much less the All-Star caliber Broxton has mustered this August — a real possibility with so many strikeouts? I asked the Play-Index how many major league players have completed multiple seasons of at least 100 plate appearances and a 2.6 AB/SO or worse. Here’s what it told me:

Rank Player 2.6+ AB/K Seasons Age
1 Russell Branyan 7 2000 2007 24-31 Ind. Seasons
2 Kelly Shoppach 4 2006 2013 26-33 Ind. Seasons
3 Rob Deer 4 1985 1991 24-30 Ind. Seasons
4 Dave Nicholson 4 1960 1964 20-24 Ind. Seasons
5 Jack Cust 3 2007 2011 28-32 Ind. Seasons
6 Domingo Santana 2 2015 2016 22-23 Ind. Seasons
7 Miguel Sano 2 2015 2016 22-23 Ind. Seasons
8 Chris Davis 2 2014 2016 28-30 Ind. Seasons
9 Alex Avila 2 2014 2016 27-29 Ind. Seasons
10 Brett Wallace 2 2013 2016 26-29 Ind. Seasons
11 Juan Francisco 2 2013 2014 26-27 Ind. Seasons
12 Chris Carter 2 2013 2015 26-28 Ind. Seasons
13 Tyler Flowers 2 2012 2014 26-28 Ind. Seasons
14 Adam Dunn 2 2011 2012 31-32 Ind. Seasons
15 Brooks Conrad 2 2011 2012 31-32 Ind. Seasons
16 Mark Reynolds 2 2009 2010 25-26 Ind. Seasons
17 Brandon Allen 2 2009 2011 23-25 Ind. Seasons
18 Ryan Langerhans 2 2007 2010 27-30 Ind. Seasons
19 Billy Ashley 2 1995 1996 24-25 Ind. Seasons
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/29/2016.


It’s not a terribly illustrious list. Adam Dunn had a solid career and Chris Davis is in the middle of one, and Russell Branyan and Rob Deer each had their moments. Miguel Sano has superstar potential, and Domingo Santana is an intriguing young player. But other than that, this is a list of bench players who could never get over their game’s fatal flaw.

It’s easy to doubt Broxton. His .425 BABIP in August screams that he was lucky. He has been a strikeout fiend throughout his entire minor league career, and he has generated enough wind with his swings and misses to disrupt weather patterns in the greater Milwaukee area even throughout his big hot streak.

But there are a few reasons to believe. Broxton made significant adjustments to his mechanics between his major league stints, as he discussed with He has shown excellent patience and a willingness to take walks. He has hit for power, something almost every single one of the successful big whiffers listed above did as well. And most of those players were bulky first basemen or designated hitters. Broxton is a decent center fielder, and as such, he doesn’t have to be as great of a hitter to justify a spot in the lineup.

This is a unique moment for baseball, a time in which both strikeouts and home runs are reaching historic highs. As such, we should expect some players with unique skillsets, like the one Broxton has shown recently, to step forward. It’s unclear if Broxton will be able to make enough to contact for his awkward but powerful swing to play in the majors. But if rebuilding seasons like this one in Milwaukee are worthwhile for anything, it’s for seeing if players like Broxton have what it takes to be part of the future, and it’ll be worth watching if he can repeat his excellent August as the season concludes over the next month and change.