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  • TD Top Prospects: #1 Byron Buxton

    Unanimity. That's something you don't come across too often.

    When Greg Maddux's name came up on the Hall of Fame ballot last month, he did not gain unanimous induction despite being one of the most obvious Hall of Famers ever. When Joe Mauer was the clear-cut best player in the league in 2009, he was not the unanimous choice for MVP. Opinions are subjective, and in any vote or ranking, there are bound to be dissenters.

    Except when it comes to naming the current best prospect in baseball. In that case, the answer is essentially indisputable.

    Byron Buxton has earned that billing from MLB.com, ESPN.com and Baseball Prospectus. Baseball America will surely follow suit later this month.


    Last week, Marc Normandin of SB Nation published a column that heaped effusive praise on Buxton from a wide variety of sources.

    This passage provides a scout's perspective on the young outfielder's physical abilities:

    An American League scout explained to us that five average or better tools for a single player is "rare" -- you have a very productive, very well-rounded major-league player if they are capable of average-or-better batting, throwing, running, fielding, and power. Buxton's tools aren't average or better, however: they're all at least plus, and that is "nearly unheard of," per our AL scout. To top it off, Buxton isn't even just plus across the board: his defense in center and his speed are both plus-plus -- the ratings don't go any higher than that.
    No prospect is a sure thing. No prospect is a sure thing. No prospect is a sure thing. No prospect is a sure thing. No prospect is a sure thing. No prospect is a sure thing. No prospect is a sure thing.

    Sorry, I just had to grind that back into my brain. Because when you take a hard look at Byron Buxton -- his statistics, his physical prowess and the immense respect he's gained from normally reserved prospect analysts everywhere in just one full season -- it can be easy to forget.

    Batting

    Last year Buxton was a 19-year-old getting his first taste of full-season ball. He absolutely dominated, hitting .334/.424/.520 between Low-A and High-A while totaling 19 doubles, 18 triples and 12 homers in 125 games.

    At the plate, he was the full package. Disciplined, difficult to strike out and a nightmare after putting the ball in play. His bat speed is tremendous, his approach highly advanced.

    He'll face another big challenge when he makes the jump to New Britain this spring, but there's little reason to expect anything other than success against Double-A pitching.

    Throwing

    It's well known that, in high school, Buxton could crank it up to the mid-90s as a pitcher, and he mowed down the opposing lineup in a championship game his senior year.

    We'll never know what kind of future he might have had on the mound, but his powerful arm is still a very nice asset in the outfield. With top-end strength and accuracy, Buxton can control the opponent's running game once he reaches the ball. Which tends to happen pretty quickly…

    Running

    He's fast. If you haven't seen Buxton go from first to third before, it is something to see. His speed receives the highest rating on every scout's scale, because he is quite simply one of the fastest players in pro baseball.

    This pays dividends in many ways. Last year, between Low-A and High-A, he stole a whopping 55 bases on 74 attempts. That's a 75 percent success rate from a teenager who was by and large trying to run (with extreme frequency) against older and more experienced batteries. For the sake of comparison, Ben Revere -- one of the quickest players I've ever seen -- maxed out at 45 steals in a minor-league season.

    Buxton's blazing speed aids his offensive game in other ways, enabling him to beat out infield grounders and take extra bases routinely (his total of 18 triples demonstrates that well enough).

    Fielding

    That speed also allows the young center fielder to cover vast real estate in the outfield. When a Cedar Rapids game was televised on Fox Sports North last June, viewers were treated to a spectacular play in which Buxton sprinted backward and dove with full extension to haul in a seemingly uncatchable drive near the warning track.

    That's par for the course. In his article linked earlier, Normandin relays a quote from ESPN.com's MLB draft insider suggesting that Buxton could play "upper-echelon defense in center" if he went straight to the majors right now. He turned 20 two months ago.

    Power

    Of Buxton's five commendable tools, this is the one that's probably least developed, which is saying something considering that he racked up 49 extra-base hits and 12 homers in 125 games last year. Most analysts believe that he'll only increase his drive distance as he ages and adds mass, giving him the potential to be a perennial 30-homer threat in the majors.

    Even if he never reaches that level of long ball proclivity, Buxton's wheels will still get him around the bases plenty often.

    The Bottom Line

    Universally regarded as the best and most well rounded prospect in baseball, Buxton gives Twins fans reason to be absolutely giddy about the future. He carries all the prospect luster of a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, and maybe more.

    Buxton still has plenty to prove. Again: No prospect is a sure thing. But this might be the closest we've ever seen, even as a 20-year-old who hasn't played above Single-A. He possesses such a deep, transcendent set of skills that even if certain aspects of his game don't fully translate to the majors, he should still end up being a highly valuable player on both ends of the field, with potential outcomes that range from occasional All-Star to annual MVP contender.
    This article was originally published in blog: TD Top Prospects: #1 Byron Buxton started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 62 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Watch this (and listen to the terrific Morgan Hawk), and just try not to smile!!

    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      That second vid demonstrates the personality contrast between Buxton and Sano pretty well. Buck smashes a no-doubt game-winning slam, doesn't pimp it one bit. Just turns, lowers his head and claps a few times.

      I'm not saying I have a problem with Sano's antics, there's nothing wrong with a little fire, but I have huge respect for the way Buxton operates.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      The two (Buxton and Sano) are so different personality-wise, but it was pretty cool seeing them together, interacting. So different and yet they both respect each other so much and seem to have a fun time together. Also at Twins Fest, Sano and Meyer both talked about their relationship as well. They're quite close. So, The Big Three are all terrific and seem to all have a ton of respect for each other.

      I don't know if this means anything or not, of course... however, I think it's one of the positives of the way that the Twins do Twins Fest. These guys get a chance to know each other before they dive head-first into baseball.
    1. richardkr34's Avatar
      richardkr34 -
      I like the one scout's comment that Buxton's floor is Torii Hunter. Think about how insane that is.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      What if he has an Aaron-Hicks-in-2013 Spring Training? I'm obviously kidding... but I think his big league debut happens sooner rather than later.
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      Hopefully he can stay healthy, when I watch that catch video I cringe, that extra effort will also run you into walls. Kubel was never the same after his injury.
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      I really like how coachable, humble and the drive he has. Unlike a few other prospects we have....
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      While it is awesome to have one of the most talented prospects in baseball in our organization it is sobering to realize that we likely will only have him for 6 years after he comes up. If he is as good as advertised and as rare as this article portrays he will likely get the next Alex Rodriguez type deal. So in my mind service time for him is going to be very important. I just hope we can get our team in shape to compete while he is playing for us and not waste the time we have him on our team.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dman View Post
      While it is awesome to have one of the most talented prospects in baseball in our organization it is sobering to realize that we likely will only have him for 6 years after he comes up. If he is as good as advertised and as rare as this article portrays he will likely get the next Alex Rodriguez type deal. So in my mind service time for him is going to be very important. I just hope we can get our team in shape to compete while he is playing for us and not waste the time we have him on our team.
      I think Buxton and Sano with receive Longoria deals. I'm sure the Twins realize we won't see another #2 pick for 10 years or so. The Pohlads pledged 50% of revenue on average will be used for payroll over time. I don't think they are burying the yearly excess in their back yard. I just believe over time hasn't arrived.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      What if he has an Aaron-Hicks-in-2013 Spring Training? I'm obviously kidding... but I think his big league debut happens sooner rather than later.
      Considering that Buxton, Sano and Meyer are not on the 40 man roster, there's no need to send them down early in camp, like there would be if they were on the 40 man roster. I'm thinking Gardy is going to want to see a lot of them all.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      What if he has an Aaron-Hicks-in-2013 Spring Training? I'm obviously kidding... but I think his big league debut happens sooner rather than later.
      He got an invite to major league camp, right? Obviously they think he's on the borderline already, and while it's a long-shot, I wouldn't be shocked if he's up in May or June. If he tears up AA to start the season wouldn't you just say to yourself as the Twins FO, "might as well let him run wild in the show, he's better than everyone he's playing against otherwise."
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Considering that Buxton, Sano and Meyer are not on the 40 man roster, there's no need to send them down early in camp, like there would be if they were on the 40 man roster. I'm thinking Gardy is going to want to see a lot of them all.
      I know I want to see a lot of them during the spring , and Hopefully all 3 of them the entire 2015 season
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      I think Buxton and Sano with receive Longoria deals. I'm sure the Twins realize we won't see another #2 pick for 10 years or so. The Pohlads pledged 50% of revenue on average will be used for payroll over time. I don't think they are burying the yearly excess in their back yard. I just believe over time hasn't arrived.
      If we can overpay these guys in their first few years and get them for 7-8 years for $50-60M, we should try and do it. Buxton I hear is very frugal and humble.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dman View Post
      While it is awesome to have one of the most talented prospects in baseball in our organization it is sobering to realize that we likely will only have him for 6 years after he comes up. If he is as good as advertised and as rare as this article portrays he will likely get the next Alex Rodriguez type deal. So in my mind service time for him is going to be very important. I just hope we can get our team in shape to compete while he is playing for us and not waste the time we have him on our team.
      I wouldn't be concerned--by then Mauer's contract will have expired. Add all of the difference between the pledged 50-52% of revenue and the present % budgeted today, and you will find plenty of available budget for both Buxton and Sano. They found the money for Mauer, Morneau, Nathan and the whole rest of the team, I have confidence that they will find it for these guys when the time comes.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      I don't have much confidence that they will use all the money saved in these few years but I do have confidence that they will up payroll to 52% and maybe a little beyond if all these guys really do pan out. If they do pan out 52% will likely be a larger amount also. Twins seem to be pretty good about buying free agent years early on guys they want.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dman View Post
      While it is awesome to have one of the most talented prospects in baseball in our organization it is sobering to realize that we likely will only have him for 6 years after he comes up. If he is as good as advertised and as rare as this article portrays he will likely get the next Alex Rodriguez type deal. So in my mind service time for him is going to be very important. I just hope we can get our team in shape to compete while he is playing for us and not waste the time we have him on our team.
      I think this type of concern is obviously premature, BUT, if you look 6 years from now, Mauer's current monster contract isn't on the books anymore, so in all honesty I think this concern is moot. If Sano and Buxton deserve the money, the Twins will pay it!

      I'm predicting Buxton is the next player to join the 20-20-20-20 club (doubles, triples, HR's, SB's), and to give a perspective, only 4 players in the history of MLB are in that club.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Based on that prediction, I looked at his 3B count from last year. He had 18. Pretty crazy that he had more 3B than HR (12). Possible certainly. He should hit that mark in 2B and SB every year.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      That second vid demonstrates the personality contrast between Buxton and Sano pretty well. Buck smashes a no-doubt game-winning slam, doesn't pimp it one bit. Just turns, lowers his head and claps a few times.

      I'm not saying I have a problem with Sano's antics, there's nothing wrong with a little fire, but I have huge respect for the way Buxton operates.
      I like the fact that he even had a high five for the mascot
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Nick, this article was a pleasure to read, not only because of the subject matter but because it's so artfully written. Thank you.
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