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  • What's the Plan: Byron Buxton

    As last year's No. 2 overall pick and the current consensus top prospect in baseball, Byron Buxton has drawn some lofty comparisons. You often hear his name mentioned alongside similarly well-rounded outfielders who dominated the minors and made a quick impact in the majors, such as Mike Trout and the Upton Brothers.

    One commonality between those three players? They all debuted in the big leagues as teenagers.

    That won't happen for Buxton, who celebrates his 20th birthday in December. The center fielder is currently playing at Class-A Ft. Myers and there's been no whisper of a possibility that he could see Target Field before season's end.

    But the organization's most prized talent also may not be as far off as some would suspect.

    In his first taste of full-season pro competition after being drafted last June, Buxton outright dominated the Midwest League this year, batting .341 with a .990 OPS in 68 games to force a promotion to the next level. In Ft. Myers, he adjusted quickly and has been no less dominant in recent weeks. His numbers over his past 25 games, dating back to late July: .413/.522/.641, three homers, two doubles, five triples, a 20:20 K/BB ratio and 17 steals.

    Those are the kinds of numbers you put up in a video game when the difficulty setting is too low. Buxton is as out of place in this league as he was in the last.

    Yet, with the season winding down (only a handful of games remain on the minor-league schedules) it makes little sense to take any sort of action right now. Almost certainly, Buxton will remain with the Miracle for the ensuing postseason run, and will then be done for the season.

    Where might he start next year? And where might he finish?

    The Aggressive Route

    We don't know yet how Buxton will handle Double-A and Triple-A but we can probably guess. His talent is so immense that it can almost be assumed the speedy outfielder will make quick work of anything the minor leagues have to offer. Like Trout and Justin Upton before him, Buxton can learn on the job, perhaps following the same path and putting up big numbers as a 20-year-old in the majors.

    But jumping straight from Single-A to The Show is basically unprecedented in recent years, at least for hitters. Even transcendent talents like Trout, the Uptons and Bryce Harper spent at least a chunk of time in Double-A and/or Triple-A before reaching the bigs (although they reached those levels more quickly than Buxton did).

    The Twins have done much this year to shed their reputation as being conservative with promotions to a fault, but it's still nigh impossible to envision Buxton going straight to the majors next spring. The most realistically aggressive approach I can see would have him starting in Double-A with a chance to force his way into the big-league fold as early as May or June.

    The Conservative Route

    Buxton is viewed as the future centerpiece of Minnesota's outfield, but the club has much to sort out around him. Aaron Hicks should return to the mix next year, along with Oswaldo Arcia. Presently, Josh Willingham remains in line for the left field job, and moving him to DH probably won't be an option as long as Ryan Doumit is around. Meanwhile, guys like Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe remain on the fringe of the discussion.

    I bristle at the notion that the Twins should hold back an elite MLB-ready talent so that Doumit or Plouffe can get playing time in right field, but the existing outfield logjam at the very least eliminates any sense of urgency regarding Buxton's arrival.

    It's pretty tough to argue for any truly conservative approach that doesn't involve Buxton struggling in Double-A. I suppose the patient route would be leaving him in New Britain for the entire first half, regardless of his production, and moving him up to Triple-A after the All-Star break if his performance dictates. Buxton would then be in position to appear as a September call-up next year and become a full-time major-leaguer at age 21 in 2015.

    The Likely Route

    I actually believe the Twins will embrace the opportunity to move quickly with Buxton. He'll start at Double-A next year but if his performance there is anything like it's been at Low-A and High-A this season, the Twins will find room for him in their outfield before the All-Star break.

    Under normal circumstances, we wouldn't be talking about young and inexperienced players like Buxton and Miguel Sano as candidates to play in the majors. But, much like with Sano -- and perhaps even more so -- we are talking about a generational talent in Buxton, and the normal rules just don't apply here.

    And in addition to the players themselves forcing the issue, there are the realities being faced by the Twins organization. This team is amidst a third straight year of irrelevance. They need to get some of these kids on the field so that fans can see the future instead of constantly hearing about it.

    Buxton is the kind of player who will create a legitimate buzz and bring people out to the ballpark. And I believe he'll be doing it in the first half of next season.
    This article was originally published in blog: What's the Plan: Byron Buxton started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 50 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I didn't know you were writing this tonight, but maybe 10 minutes ago, I posted this on twitter:

      Current Seth Projections: Miguel Sano -May 15, 2014,. Eddie Rosario -June 15, 2014. Alex Meyer -June 15, 2014. Byron Buxton - July 28, 2014.
      I think that's pretty aggressive for Buxton, and you're saying first half, which could be a month or so earlier. I'd actually be surprised if he's up before the All Star break, but I really believe late July is a realistic possibility.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Nick I usually enjoy your pieces but I have to say I am a little disappointed in some aspects of this article. There is a definite "the Twins are slow in promoting" slant here and while that might be a deserved critique of the organization in general, it just doesn't hold in this case.

      The Twins have moved Buxton just as quickly as either J.Upton or Trout. Here are their games played at each level before reaching the majors and the age they were drafted.

      Rk A A+ AA AAA Total Age
      Upton 0 113 32 71 0 216 17
      Trout 39 86 50 91 0 266 17
      Buxton 48 68 55* ?? ?? 163 18
      *Includes 8 games yet to be played in 2013

      As you can see Buxton is on the same promotion path. If he is promoted after the first half of the 2014 season to the majors, as you suggest, he will be right on their arrival schedule. Trout made his debut July 8th and Upton August 2nd. As you can see the only difference is the age at which they were drafted not how quickly they have moved. If Buxton was young when he was drafted he would have had the opportunity to reach the majors as a teenager just as Trout and Upton did.

      Let's just all hope he follows Trout's path once he gets there!
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Sign Ellsbury.....put him center until Buxton is up, then move him to left. Put Arcia in right or first. Eventually another OF will be ready if not Arcia.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      There is a definite "the Twins are slow in promoting" slant here and while that might be a deserved critique of the organization in general, it just doesn't hold in this case.
      I'm not seeing how there is a "definite" slant to that effect. I'm fine with the way they have handled them. Pointing out that some other similar prospects reached higher levels at a younger age is not a critique, it's just a fact.

      The point I was driving at was that players of this caliber tend to reach the major leagues very, very quickly.
    1. Larsbars08's Avatar
      Larsbars08 -
      The only real difference between Buxton and Trout's career trajectories, is that Trout was drafted at age 17.5, whereas Buxton was nearly 18.5. Even though their career paths have been eerily similar, Trout was roughly a year less physically mature when at the same stage as Buxton. It doesn't make Buxton's performance any less impressive, but it does show how incredible Mike Trout is. I would probably guess that Buxton is less likely to hit 30 home runs every year, like Trout is capable of, but is more likely to stay a prodigious base stealer, and defensive wizard longer than Trout will be.

      On another note, sometimes I feel like Mac from Always Sunny in Philadelphia, talking and thinking about these guys physiques.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Those are the kinds of numbers you put up in a video game when the difficulty setting is too low. Buxton is as out of place in this league as he was in the last.
      That sums it quite nicely.

      Hey Terry Ryan! Want to know a great way to get a Sellout for a Noon, Thursday afternoon game on September 12 against Oakland? Call up Miguel Sano.

      Want to know how to get back-to-back Sellouts, for a Friday night on September 13 game at 7:10PM against Tampa Bay? Call up Byron Buxton.
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      That sums it quite nicely.

      Hey Terry Ryan! Want to know a great way to get a Sellout for a Noon, Thursday afternoon game on September 12 against Oakland? Call up Miguel Sano.

      Want to know how to get back-to-back Sellouts, for a Friday night on September 13 game at 7:10PM against Tampa Bay? Call up Byron Buxton.
      Then watch a entire fan base deflate as both struggle Hicks-like and are sent back down. Being a GM is a tough, tough job and bringing these two up is going to be a tough, tough decision. A lot is riding on bringing our top prospects up and not just Sano and Buxton.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      That sums it quite nicely.

      Hey Terry Ryan! Want to know a great way to get a Sellout for a Noon, Thursday afternoon game on September 12 against Oakland? Call up Miguel Sano.

      Want to know how to get back-to-back Sellouts, for a Friday night on September 13 game at 7:10PM against Tampa Bay? Call up Byron Buxton.
      Miguel Sano, maybe... But I'm not sold on creating potential 40 man issues when you can punt on the decision until next March.

      But Buxton, no way... Moving a guy from A+ to the MLB is a good way to crush his confidence and screw with his head. Promote him aggressively, sure... But promote him intelligently. A, A+, AA, then AAA or MLB depending on how he does in AA.

      Making moves based on what will placate a fan base is a good way to dig the franchise a deep hole and get yourself fired. I'm still convinced this is going to be the ultimate outcome of the Shields/Myers trade. The Royals are hamstrung (hey look, Myers has a 131 OPS+ in Tampa), they're going to miss the playoffs, and Moore is not going to be the GM for much longer because of impatience, methinks.
    1. CharacterGroove's Avatar
      CharacterGroove -
      If it's me calling the shots, Buxton plays in AFL this fall, and starts in AA next spring. If his numbers are Buxton-like after 100 at bats or so, you start getting the big squad ready for the 2-step jump.

      Nobody on the current MLB roster should get in the way.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Brock, there have to be 5 guys you could cut from teh 40 man right now, and Sano will be on it next year, so you need to plan for that anyway, but ya, I don't see them doing that at all. Not their style. They didn't call one prospect up last year (of course, that could be because the AAA roster is/was barren of prospects).
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by CharacterGroove View Post
      If it's me calling the shots, Buxton plays in AFL this fall, and starts in AA next spring. If his numbers are Buxton-like after 100 at bats or so, you start getting the big squad ready for the 2-step jump.

      Nobody on the current MLB roster should get in the way.
      I'd go one step further and make room for him. Willingham and Doumit need to be on the block this winter. Trade at least one of them because the team simply does not have the room for Hicks, Arcia, and Buxton right now and it's a huge waste to let guys like Doumit and Willingham ride the pine most of the time.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Brock, there have to be 5 guys you could cut from teh 40 man right now, and Sano will be on it next year, so you need to plan for that anyway, but ya, I don't see them doing that at all. Not their style. They didn't call one prospect up last year (of course, that could be because the AAA roster is/was barren of prospects).
      There are definitely guys who could be cut from the 40-man but honestly, I don't see it as a pressing need in September of 2013. Give Sano the offseason to rest and get ready to potentially start the 2014 season in Minnesota.

      On the other hand, it wouldn't break my heart to see him on the 40-man roster in a week, either. I'm okay with either decision, really.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I'd go one step further and make room for him. Willingham and Doumit need to be on the block this winter. Trade at least one of them because the team simply does not have the room for Hicks, Arcia, and Buxton right now and it's a huge waste to let guys like Doumit and Willingham ride the pine most of the time.
      I agree and would handle off season roster decisions like Buxton will be up mid season 2014
    1. AlexTrebek's Avatar
      AlexTrebek -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      There are definitely guys who could be cut from the 40-man but honestly, I don't see it as a pressing need in September of 2013. Give Sano the offseason to rest and get ready to potentially start the 2014 season in Minnesota. On the other hand, it wouldn't break my heart to see him on the 40-man roster in a week, either. I'm okay with either decision, really.
      Aren't we putting the cart before the horse?
    1. AlexTrebek's Avatar
      AlexTrebek -
      Quote Originally Posted by Larsbars08 View Post
      The only real difference between Buxton and Trout's career trajectories, is that Trout was drafted at age 17.5, whereas Buxton was nearly 18.5. Even though their career paths have been eerily similar, Trout was roughly a year less physically mature when at the same stage as Buxton. It doesn't make Buxton's performance any less impressive, but it does show how incredible Mike Trout is. I would probably guess that Buxton is less likely to hit 30 home runs every year, like Trout is capable of, but is more likely to stay a prodigious base stealer, and defensive wizard longer than Trout will be. On another note, sometimes I feel like Mac from Always Sunny in Philadelphia, talking and thinking about these guys physiques.
      None of these variables will matter if the constants are still TR, Gardy ect.
    1. AlexTrebek's Avatar
      AlexTrebek -
      Wowsers
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      I say give him half a season in AA next year (just enough to push service time back a year). Then when he's done crushing the Eastern League, bring him up to the majors for the last half.
    1. messier's Avatar
      messier -
      Quote Originally Posted by YourHouseIsMyHouse View Post
      I say give him half a season in AA next year (just enough to push service time back a year). Then when he's done crushing the Eastern League, bring him up to the majors for the last half.
      Totally concur I just hope I don't have to watch Hicks hit left handed for half a season. I'd rather watch Clete and that's sad.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Miguel Sano, maybe... But I'm not sold on creating potential 40 man issues when you can punt on the decision until next March.

      But Buxton, no way... Moving a guy from A+ to the MLB is a good way to crush his confidence and screw with his head. Promote him aggressively, sure... But promote him intelligently. A, A+, AA, then AAA or MLB depending on how he does in AA.

      Making moves based on what will placate a fan base is a good way to dig the franchise a deep hole and get yourself fired. I'm still convinced this is going to be the ultimate outcome of the Shields/Myers trade. The Royals are hamstrung (hey look, Myers has a 131 OPS+ in Tampa), they're going to miss the playoffs, and Moore is not going to be the GM for much longer because of impatience, methinks.
      Do we really have 40 indispensable players on the 40-man that requires additional punting? TR already punted once on the 2013 season when he essentially stopped signing and trading for MLB players last December. Parting ways from the 40-man with the likes of (one or two of the spare OF corps): Thomas/Ramirez/Mastroianni, Bernier, Hermsen, De Vries, Roenicke should hardly be the cause of teeth-gnashing. Plus Morneau's spot eventually opens up and perhaps more veterans, as well, in the offseason.

      Buxton can play for 15-20 games in September and still start out in AA next April. I sincerely doubt that such a special, driven talent would let those 15-20 games crush his confidence should he fail to meet his own expectations and nothing is going to crush Sano's confidence.

      And I'm definitely not advocating for the placating of fans, I'm offering an easy way to folllow up on the Free National Pub from sensational articles like the one from Sports Illustrated and raking in some additional revenue during the dog days of the lost 2013 season on the way to the third straight 90+ loss year- while offering glimmers of very legitimate hope on the way, and furthermore, generating additional season ticket sales for 2014 (generating this type of feel-good optimism about the near-future is not placating, it's marketing). Playing Sano and Buxton is not placating fans or potentially digging Terry Ryan's grave. And playing Buxton and Sano wouldn't represent impatience, a Septemer call-up shouldn't guarantee anyone's spot on the 2014 roster- heck, even Mike Trout bounced back and forth from the minors and majors before he finally stuck for good.

      Now on the other hand, Ryan is pretty fire-resistant if not completely fire-proof (as he apparently answers to no one except the guy who fired his predecessor, not for his demonstrated incompetence, but on the chance that he might be inclined to go a few bucks over "budget", whatever that might be).....but...having said that.... if Ryan were to go and do something really Moore-level stupid and trade either of these two for a 2-year rental of an "ace", even Jim Pohlad might sit up and take notice of the pitchforks and torches in front of One Twins Way. Terry Ryan is a lot of things, but he isn't stupid.

      Look, I know they won't do it, but they should at least consider it as a potential win-win arrangement. As I said, Ryan isn't stupid, but I'm afraid that his past comments like "I'm 53 but look 70 for a reason" and about how modern GMs have to bring more dynamism to the job than he can still offer, suggests that making these moves is just not worth the small risk taken by him in doing so, nor the time and effort spent.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by orangevening View Post
      Then watch a entire fan base deflate as both struggle Hicks-like and are sent back down. Being a GM is a tough, tough job and bringing these two up is going to be a tough, tough decision. A lot is riding on bringing our top prospects up and not just Sano and Buxton.
      I'll say it again, and again. Sano and Buxton aren't Hicks.

      Mike Trout was sent back down, neither he nor the fan base deflated when he struggled. Our fan base has failed to deflate this year thus far over some 80% of the season, despite another 90+ loss season and frequently putting some lineups out in the field that upon which, the likes of Hosken Powell, Butch Huskey and Terry Tiffee would have been the stars.
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