TD Top Prospects: #1 Byron Buxton
Age: 21 (DOB: 12/18/1993)
2014 Stats (Fort Myers/New Britain): .234/.307/.395 (.702) with 4-2B, 2-3B, 4-HR
ETA: Late 2015
2014 Ranking: 1
What’s To Like
Buxton has more tools than HGTV -- is one shecky way to describe his potential. He has plus speed, plus defense, plus hit tool, plus makeup and so on.
"He'll wow you in the batter's box. He'll wow you in the outfield. He can run. He can fly. He has the arm. He's got the tools," was the review Miracle hitting coach Tommy Watkins gave reporters when Buxton hit the Florida State League in 2013. "He's an exciting player. He does everything whether it is stepping in the box and hitting doubles and triples or taking doubles away from guys."
Still, the road to the majors is littered with players who have had tools but failed to apply themselves. In a 2014 profile of Buxton, the Star Tribune highlighted the young player’s offseason workout routine which involved a daily morning run at 5:30 followed by hours of personal training and batting practice -- all before lunch. Certainly lack of a work ethic is not going to hinder Buxton’s potential.
Buxton earned an invitation to major league camp and will have the opportunity to work with veteran Torii Hunter, hoping to glean some valuable insight that may also help lead to a fruitful career. There are some who believe Buxton has an even brighter future than the five-time All-Star.
"I played with Torii at 19-, 20-years-old and this kid has all the tools, if not more, than Torii had," Miracle manager Doug Meintkiewicz, a teammate of Hunter’s, told reporters after watching Buxton play.
What’s Left To Work On
Proving he can stay on the field, for one thing.
As far as the injuries go however, Buxton said that he’s fully recovered and the collision in the outfield has not made him gun-shy in the least. “My health is good,” Buxton said on the Twins Hot Stove Show. “I wouldn’t change the way I play the game. I’m gonna play it hard and try to take away as many base hits that I can and try to help my pitcher out.”
Of all of his tools, his hitting needs the most work. While it is very much above average, it is not quite at the plus-plus grade that his defense and speed receive. Since being added to the system the Twins staff has made some changes to his swing mechanics, hoping to get him to be a bit more balanced at the point of contact rather than drifting forward. While heading for the Arizona Fall League ,Buxton told the Twins Hot Stove Show that he wanted to work on going the other way more and improving his pitch selection, which may or may not have been a directive of the front office.
“He will have to have to make some adjustments as he moves up the ladder in pro ball,” said scout Therron Brockish at Baseball America in November 2013. “There have been a lot of swings-and-misses in the Arizona Fall League, with the quality of pitching being a little better than what’s he’s probably seen up to this point. Sometimes he loads late, causing him to be late in trying to catch up to a good fastball. I would also like to see him use a little more of the whole field, but he’s still a young hitter with tremendous upside.”
He could use a reductionn of his strikeout rate, but it isn't necessarily the swinging strikeouts that cause questions. Th percentage of plate appearances in which he was caught looking doubled from 2013 to 2014. Similarly, in his second tour of the Florida State League Buxton’s walk rate dropped from 13% to 8%. Destined to start his career at the top of the order, the Twins need Buxton to get on base and utilize his elite speed.
Believe it or not, Buxton is not far off. According to Twins general manager Terry Ryan, he has a very real chance of making it to Minnesota in 2015. That said, Buxton’s lack of playing time in 2014 hurts his chances of making it to the Twins early in the year.
Buxton will most likely start the year reunited with his Miracle manager Mientkiewicz in Chattanooga. If he proves himself capable, he will be on the move quickly. While the second-halves of the seasons lately have's not given Twins fans much reason to visit Target Field, Buxton's presence would surely pique some interest.
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TD Top Prospect #1: Byron Buxton