• Bang For Your Buxton

    Five-tool potential? Check.

    Comparisons to all-time greats like Bo Jackson and Willie Mays? Check.

    Classic baseball name? Check.

    Yep, Byron Buxton seems to have everything you'd hope for in a top pick. Now he just needs to turn his elite tools into production on the professional stage something the last high-profile prep outfielder drafted by the Twins has failed to do thus far.

    The comparisons to Aaron Hicks were inevitable from the moment Buxton's name was mentioned as a potential target at No. 2. Both were center fielders with off-the-charts athleticism. Both did some pitching for their high school teams, with a fastball clocking in the high 90s. And both had the kind of upside with the bat that makes scouts drool.

    Hicks impressed the folks at Baseball America so much with his tools and potential that after the 2009 season they ranked him as the 19th-best prospect in all of baseball, despite the fact that his numbers in Beloit that year were thoroughly mediocre (.735 OPS, 4 HR, 10 SB in 67 G).

    Unfortunately, three years later the 2008 first-rounder hasn't taken the kind of steps those analysts believed he would. He dropped to No. 45 on BA's list after a good-not-great encore season in the Midwest League in 2010, and fell off the Top 100 completely after hitting .242 with five homers in Ft. Myers last season.

    Currently, the 22-year-old Hicks is hitting .247 in New Britain and his ability to take walks heretofore his primary asset continues to deteriorate. The switch-hitting outfielder certainly shouldn't be labeled a bust, but at this point his upside looks more like solid regular than star.

    Hicks and Buxton are different people and one man's journey has no bearing on another. Still, the slow and frustrating path that Hicks has followed serves as a cautionary tale when it comes to the organization's latest blockbuster addition.

    The questions that surrounded Hicks when the Twins selected him 14th overall in '08 were the same ones that generally surround any teenager drafted out of high school, and they are the same ones now attached to Buxton: How will those immense physical attributes play out when he goes from facing crummy high school hurlers to imposing professionals?

    Fortunately, Buxton's tools are a notch above those of Hicks, not to mention every other position player that was involved in this year's draft (with the possible exception of No. 1 pick Carlos Correa). As an 18-year-old with a long way to go before reaching the majors, Buxton is a gamble, especially considering that the Twins passed on a number of highly rated pitchers to take him, but with his otherworldly speed, his sweet right-handed swing and his cannon arm he seems exceedingly well equipped for the challenge ahead.

    And coupled with Miguel Sano, he injects more excitement into the Twins' farm system than we've seen in a very long time.
    This article was originally published in blog: Bang For Your Buxton started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Hicks and Buxton are different people and one man's journey has no bearing on another. Still, the slow and frustrating path that Hicks has followed serves as a cautionary tale when it comes to the organization's latest blockbuster addition.
      And, to add more to this... it's the same path that equally tooslie athletes Denard Span and Torii Hunter were on. And probably Matt Moses, BJ Garbe, and others.
    1. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
      TwinsGuy55422 -
      Hopefully the kid doesn't listen to the comparisons to the greats and comes in humble and ready to work his butt off, improve, and eventually contribute to the big league club.
    1. righty8383's Avatar
      righty8383 -
      Yeah, I tend to agree, Buxton was not my top choice but that had nothing to do with Aaron Hicks. I've never been a big fan of player comparisons to begin with. So even though he wasn't my top choice, he is a Twin now and I am excited to see what he can do in the futuere.
    1. jlovren's Avatar
      jlovren -
      I like the Eric Davis comparison thats been thrown out.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Where does everyone think Buxton will start in the system next year? Advanced Rookie or Rookie?
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Next year or this year if he signs soonish? E-Town, one would think this year. Hopefully he starts or at least finishes at Beloit next year.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by shanewahl View Post
      Next year or this year if he signs soonish? E-Town, one would think this year. Hopefully he starts or at least finishes at Beloit next year.
      That would be uncharacteristically aggressive. I'm sure he'll start in the GCL but I did read that they were open to having him finish this year in Elizabethton. I wonder if they'll start him in EST next year, like they did with Hicks in '09.
    1. PMKI's Avatar
      PMKI -
      Just curious, do you guys remember who Aaron Hicks was compared to when he was drafted?
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      I would not call this pick a gamble. A gamble would have been taking one of the three high profile pitchers and guessing which one will be good. If they took Appel and Zimmer proved to better, than they look like fools.

      This is taking a kid with a lot talent that could be great but its not really a gamble.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Their approach has worked so well the last 5 years, they should keep doing that /sarcasm.

      He's 18.5, in HS, and dominated younger teenagers in an area with low talent, of course there is risk here. That doesn't mean he was a bad pick, I have no issue with the pick. But to pretend there is no risk here is odd to me.

      I don't think it is aggressive for him to be in low A next year, he'll be older than Sano, and he's the 2nd pick in the draft with "can't miss tools". If he's not ready as a 19.5 year old for low A, then that would be a red flag to me that he's not really a superstar in the making. Superstars are on much shorter paths than regular players, that's part of what makes them superstars.

      As for Hicks, I'm not sure why we think he's going to be a solid regular? He cannot hit AA ball pitching. That could change, but I'm down to about 50% convinced now that he'll be a solid regular on a winning team (lots of guys can be regulars on bad teams....look a the last two years in MN). It shows, again, why sometimes trading propsects for proven players might be a good idea.....

      All that said, I have no issue with the Buxton pick. It wouldn't have been my pick, but we'll see how it turns out.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      The questions that surrounded Hicks when the Twins selected him 14th overall in '08 were the same ones that generally surround any teenager drafted out of high school, and they are the same ones now attached to Buxton: How will those immense physical attributes play out when he goes from facing crummy high school hurlers to imposing professionals?
      I am curious how Buxton's power will develop when he is currently in a metal bat league with smaller fields and crappy pitching and he can only hit 3 home runs. I know it is dangerous comparing Hicks to Buxton but Hicks had more home runs and a higher slugging % in high school than Buxton. I guess at this point I don't buy into Buxton being a 5 tool guy.
    1. peterb18's Avatar
      peterb18 -
      I saw Hicks play in a spring training game this year. I was impressed with his size and skills in the game. I also think that when he was drafted he was more of an athlete than a baseball player. If the Twins are patient the instincts will come. He plays at a slower pace than Benson already. Benson is the one I'm worried about.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Everyone is down on Hicks because of the batting average, but I ask you to look at it another way.

      Each time he's hit a new level, he's hit about .245/.345/.385. When he's repeated a level (Midwest League in his case), he raised it to .279/.401/.428.

      His .341 On-base percentage at AA New Britain this year is better than the league average and he's also top 10 in the league in runs scored and stolen bases.

      I also fail to see how his ability to draw a walk has deteriorated, as he's also #3 in the EAS League in that category, and the AVG/OBP split is still nearly .100 (which is an elite level walk rate). Yes he strikes out a lot too, but that hasn't hurt him from being productive.

      To me, Hicks is going to be the same guy go no matter what level he plays at (statistically speaking, unless he gives up hitting left-handed, than the numbers might improve), at his peak being a .270/.370/.420 hitter who plays gold-glove caliber defense in CF. What's wrong with that. As mentioned, Torii Hunter didn't do anything until he was 25, so I wouldn't worry so much about him. If he gets on a hot streak you might just see him in September this year. I bet in 4 years we're having this exact same conversation about Buxton.
    1. maxisagod's Avatar
      maxisagod -
      Quote Originally Posted by PMKI View Post
      Just curious, do you guys remember who Aaron Hicks was compared to when he was drafted?
      A switch Hitting Torii Hunter was the one I heard the most.
    1. James's Avatar
      James -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      I am curious how Buxton's power will develop when he is currently in a metal bat league with smaller fields and crappy pitching and he can only hit 3 home runs. I know it is dangerous comparing Hicks to Buxton but Hicks had more home runs and a higher slugging % in high school than Buxton. I guess at this point I don't buy into Buxton being a 5 tool guy.
      The metal bat part doesn't bother me at all. Highschools and colleges have started using BBCORE bats now that are metal bats that mimic wood bats. It's not quite perfect, but they are much closer to wood bats than they used to be.

      I'm excited to see what Buxton can do. I know it will probably take him a few years, but hopefully he signs soon and gets playing. From the scouting reports and articles I've read, he is supposed to be quite the humble kid that works hard and is a team player.

      I'm not worried that we picked him either. There was a rumor that Appel would turn down a $6MM signing bonus from Houston, which is why they picked Correa. So, if the Twins would have picked him instead of Buxton, he may not have signed anyway.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Super stars don't repeat levels every level. Superstars dominate their level. Sort by OPS for the eastern league....he's 34th (if I counted right). There are two other AA leagues. He'd be 26th in the Souther League, and even lower in the last league (got tired of counting) (yes, I know the parks are different, but we can only work with what we have....). So, more than 80 everyday AA players are out-OPSing him right now.

      Can he get better? Sure he can. Is he some can't miss prospect that will be at least league average? No idea. There was a study last year online about OPS in AA, and its predictability around becoming an above average MLB player. I'll see if I can find it, but I'm pretty sure we won't like what it implies about Hicks' likely future. A .790 OPS would make him the 8th best CF in MLB (2011 stats), your .370 OBP would make him the 3rd best CF in all of MLB in terms of OBP. You really think that? It would be 24th best OBP for all of MLB. If that were true, sign me up with gold glove defense. But what are the odds of that, really?
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      I also fail to see how his ability to draw a walk has deteriorated, as he's also #3 in the EAS League in that category, and the AVG/OBP split is still nearly .100 (which is an elite level walk rate). Yes he strikes out a lot too, but that hasn't hurt him from being productive.
      Well his BB% has dropped from 17 to 15 to 13 the past three years, and his K/BB ratios which were once close to even are now closer to 2:1. His plate discipline numbers still aren't terrible, but they aren't headed in the right direction.
    1. Brendan Kennealy's Avatar
      Brendan Kennealy -
      Love the Twins for drafting a solid righty bat. Target Field will be a great park for any hitter who can learn to pull toward left.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
      The metal bat part doesn't bother me at all. Highschools and colleges have started using BBCORE bats now that are metal bats that mimic wood bats. It's not quite perfect, but they are much closer to wood bats than they used to be.
      Good point about the BBCOR bats, I wasn't aware they were required this year and that would hurt his power. I still stand by my point though that 3 HR in a season (1 every 40 AB) is not power when numerous players in the state are hitting homeruns every 10 AB:

      http://www.maxpreps.com/list/leaderb...2-63428ccb3a68

      I still like the pick as well. He looks like he can throw well in the video's I have seen, his speed seems ridiculous, and he has a high average in High School. He just doesn't have the power to be described as a "5-tool" player and that isn't a bad thing.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      Good point about the BBCOR bats, I wasn't aware they were required this year and that would hurt his power. I still stand by my point though that 3 HR in a season (1 every 40 AB) is not power when numerous players in the state are hitting homeruns every 10 AB:

      http://www.maxpreps.com/list/leaderb...2-63428ccb3a68

      I still like the pick as well. He looks like he can throw well in the video's I have seen, his speed seems ridiculous, and he has a high average in High School. He just doesn't have the power to be described as a "5-tool" player and that isn't a bad thing.

      I hear what you're saying, but you did see the video of Buxton hitting the ball (practically) onto Waveland Avenue at Wrigley, right? Effortless swing.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jEOvrNoBlE
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