On July 30, 2019, just two months past the nine-year anniversary of Ken Griffey Jr.’s final game with the Seattle Mariners, the franchise added another flamboyant center fielder to its rich history.
Enter Keon Broxton, a 2009 third-round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks who is now with his fifth organization. Originally taken with the Phillies’ 29th-round pick in 2008, the Lakeland, FL native chose not to sign with Philadelphia. Instead, the outfielder matriculated at Santa Fe College in his home state, gracing the same campus where Mallex Smith would arrive three years later.
Spending just one year at the small school in Gainesville, Broxton wrecked the opposition, leaving college without a shadow of a doubt that he could compete in pro ball. Not only did he elevate his draft slot to a higher place and presumably feel a whole lot better about his skills, Broxton also played the role of heartbreaker to pitchers from places like St. Johns River State College and Florida State College at Jacksonville, two of his adversaries who prayed he wouldn’t come around here no more.
After college, the newest Mariner mystery man had pit stops across the D-Backs’ and Pirates’ minor league systems, seven MLB games in a Pittsburgh uniform, three seasons with the Brewers, and cameos with the Mets and Orioles before becoming the 24th position player to suit up for Seattle in 2019. The breakdown on Broxton is simple: he’s a defense-first outfielder with plus speed and a feast or famine approach at the plate.
But about that defense. If he’s learned anything in his career, it’s how to run into the great wide open and come back with a baseball.
Broxton was forced to the bench, and eventually out of town completely, when the Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain. Understandably, he went from 463 plate appearances in 2017 to just 89 last year, the first season of Cain in Milwaukee. In that 2017 season, Broxton’s rate stats were fairly abysmal (.220/.299/.420, 85 wRC+), but he finished the year with 20 home runs and 21 stolen bases, making him one of only four Brewers in the 20/20 club. Still, that wasn’t enough for the Crew to keep him around in a crowded outfield, as both Broxton and Domingo Santana were casualties of Milwaukee’s 2018-19 offseason.
When the Mets acquired the 29-year-old from the Brewers, FanGraphs’ story about the trade featured the headline “Mets Trade Three Prospects for Keon Broxton’s Defense”. The Mariners, thankfully, did not have to trade any prospects for Broxton’s defense, as his offense tanked his value into the netherspace. A truly horrendous stretch in Baltimore (.204/.261/.350 with 49 strikeouts in 112 plate appearances) caused the flightless O’s to designate him for assignment in late July. The 2019 Mariners, true to their “why not?” spirit, took a chance on him for the reasonable price of nothing.
Though he will likely be remembered as nothing more than a footnote from an experimental phase in Mariner history, the new acquisition does have some value. Broxton is, full stop, the best defensive outfielder on the Mariners’ roster. With a PED suspension officially killing the Tim Beckham: Left Fielder era, Seattle will likely roll with Broxton in center field flanked by Smith and Santana on most nights. While he’s the newest in terms of Mariner experience, Broxton has more big-league experience in the outfield’s premiere spot than any of his teammates.
Mariners on 40-Man Roster: Major League CF Experience
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Of course, wacky September roster rules and the roughly 63 other utility guys on the 40-man roster could complicate things for Broxton, especially if Mitch Haniger and Braden Bishop return from their injuries at any point. If there is one person I’d be most comfortable with Broxton losing playing time to, it’s unquestionably Ian Miller, who’s played over 600 games in the Mariners’ organization without getting a shot in the majors. Miller has nearly doubled his minor league home run total this season, leads the PCL in stolen bases, and possesses both the speed and defense that the club presumably liked in Broxton.
tuned in to the Rainiers game just in time to see Ian Miller run halfway across Tacoma to make this diving catch pic.twitter.com/GguQmkyGoa— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 2, 2018
So what should we expect from Keon Broxton? Occasional flashes of brilliance in the outfield and regular flashes of emptiness at the plate, probably. One important thing to consider is that Broxton is essentially auditioning for a spot in the big leagues next year. The market for .214 career hitters about to turn 30 is fairly dry, and with the reformed trade deadline, Broxton (the exact kind of player who gets hurt by the banishment of August trades) won’t get the added motivation of playing in a postseason race. Contending clubs can always use late inning defensive replacements as each game becomes more important, and now they are no longer able to find ones outside of their own systems.
Slump-prone offensive players with steady gloves (think Leonys Martín) can often find late-season homes in clubhouses lacking good fielders (as Martín did for the 2017 Cubs). Surely a team like the A’s or Cardinals would love to have Broxton man an outfield spot in the late innings over lumbering oafs like Robbie Grossman or José Martínez, but with the elimination of the August waiver deadline, that is no longer possible.
As such, Broxton is likely to play out the string in Seattle. Instead of October’s mystique lighting a fire under him, Broxton has to motivate himself just like the rest of us: by convincing himself that the Mariners are a good situation. Barring injury or losing a Florida Man showdown to Mallex Smith, he will likely get the bulk of center field action. Now it’s just about turning that opportunity into another opportunity in 2020.
Fun facts about Keon Broxton
- His Twitter account is…revealing.
Do— Loverboy9 (@KeonDDBroxton) June 15, 2019
Can't tell me I don't know what I'm doing! pic.twitter.com/fAAAQnoEKc— Loverboy9 (@KeonDDBroxton) July 4, 2014
Want this in my backyard one day! pic.twitter.com/HJXpO7v5QH— Loverboy9 (@KeonDDBroxton) July 24, 2014
- Him and his partner Dominique collab’d on an adorable child.
- He and Dominique also have a dog named Henny G. Sadly, Henny’s Instagram page has not been very active recently.
- He spent a winter playing for the Sydney Blue Sox in the Australian Baseball League.
- He is the 15th player in Mariner history to wear #4.
- He, at one point in time, owned this hat.
- In just his eighth plate appearance as a Mariner, the new guy planted an opposite field home run in Texas.