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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. TRex's Avatar
      TRex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      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.
      He may also be able to get 20 outfield assists!
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I was an Appel guy, it sure looks like I was wrong. Another player I can't wait to see hit, run, field.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      I was an Appel guy, it sure looks like I was wrong. Another player I can't wait to see hit, run, field.
      Unfortunately, I wanted Appel as well. Was generally upset by the pick.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      I agree that the Twins have been good about keeping the players they really want or feel they need on the team despite the money. I just think he is likely going to make silly money in 6 years. I think he could be in the 35 to 40 million a year range if he is the game changer everyone thinks he might be. That would likely be a a quarter or third of our payroll to keep him. I realize they can make it work but if he goes to free agency I am concerned about the bidding war that could result and I am not aware of us winning many of those. With Mauer the Twins didn't have to bid against the major money teams hopefully Buxton will sign a hometown deal but I wouldn't bet on it.

      If I were the Twins I would plan on having him for 6 years, hope for 8 and beyond but plan on utilizing his talent as judiciously as possible for those 6 years. Unless he really, really likes Minnesota he is going to want to listen to those crazy offers for his services. Like maybe 5 years for 250Mil or 6 for 350 maybe even 10 for 500M? What would you pay for a once in a lifetime talent who maybe comes out in FA at 27 or 28 years old if you have the money to burn (ie NY, LA, Seattle)?
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      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.
      Longoria signed a below market deal, and while I'd love for Sano/Buxton to do that, I wouldn't expect it. The Twins do have some leverage in that they can pay them more during their pre-arb years and guarantee a salary during their arb years in exchange for a year or two of FA, and I expect that to happen, but I do think at one point Sano and Buxton are going to want their deals if they turn into what it is that people think they could be... and let's be honest... we'd all do the same thing.

      Now can the Twins afford it? I think they could, and they may. I woudln't be surprised though if they were forced to let one of them go.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      The Twins did ramp up the payroll that first year in Target Field and was above what they had budgeted if I remember correctly. That said, I don't know if they're saving money in the coffers for later years or not. Publicly they say they're willing to spend. Hopefully they mean it and when some of these guys do make it they do what the Braves have been doing this offseason.
    1. birddog's Avatar
      birddog -
      So great to hear not only do these top prospects have amazing athletic prowess but also the drive to be the best. In addition they seem to possess strong leadership skills. Saw Buxton at Cedar Rapids last year for 3 games, just before the televised game. He was not at his best but still showed enough to get very excited, especially running the bases. Twins have done a great job recently, drafting and signing players to make the future very bright. Gotta believe they will do everything possible to keep these guys in Minnesota.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Signing Buxton to a monster contract will be a nice problem to have as that will mean we had one great player for 6 years.

      Let's also not forget the Twins signed Kirby Puckett to the (at that time) largest contract in baseball history. If this new wave of talent pans out and the Twins start winning consistently again, revenues will climb substantially, thereby creating a larger pool of funds to sign these guys to extensions.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      Nick, this article was a pleasure to read, not only because of the subject matter but because it's so artfully written. Thank you.
      Thank YOU! Very kind.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
      Signing Buxton to a monster contract will be a nice problem to have as that will mean we had one great player for 6 years.

      Let's also not forget the Twins signed Kirby Puckett to the (at that time) largest contract in baseball history. If this new wave of talent pans out and the Twins start winning consistently again, revenues will climb substantially, thereby creating a larger pool of funds to sign these guys to extensions.
      2015-2019 could actually be a period where we are in playoff contention and have a relative low payroll. 2020 and beyond, look out. Mauer will likely be gone or be cheaper, but we could have a 2006-2007, only I would argue potentially more talent (Buxton, Sano, Meyer, our 5th pick next year, versus Santana, Torii, Cuddy, etc.)
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Buxton is in Ft Myers, but has yet to show up at the park. There's not alot of fans out here yet, which is surprising, but most that are here are looking for him. When he does show, and the word gets out, it'll be a crowd here. Buxton will draw wherever he goes, and it's far from all Minnesota fans.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Unfortunately, I wanted Appel as well. Was generally upset by the pick.
      Count me in the camp that wanted Appel as well and didn't think we needed Buxton. I guess that is why I am not a scout or GM, but I sure like to second guess those guys.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      "No prospect is a sure thing."

      A good and proper warning, Nick. However, this fan delights in seeing a good thing play out. One of my mentors has coached me over the course of my career path with the words, "Let it play out, Mark. Let it play out."

      The fact that the Twins' farm system is loaded makes Target Field a target-rich environment. To use a shotgun metaphor, a shotgun shell is loaded with bb's and firepower. There are magnum loads and trap loads. Lead shot, steel shot, tungsten, toxic, and nontoxic. Just for the sake of a visual, take a look at these shells:


      If each shell represents a ballplayer, some might be loaded with one or two "plus" or "plus-plus" loads. Others with more or less skills--or loads--based upon position, offensive or defensive ability, and off-the-field attributes like leadership, age, personality, work ethic, and the like. The oft-referenced "five tool guy" would be the ideal load, in a manner of speaking.

      Some in this thread have begun to speculate that the Big Three of Meyer, Sano, and Buxton pack so much firepower that they will play themselves out of Target Field's income stream in five or six years. How much fun would it be to see that problem play out?

      Will the loads that are being packed and prepared in the minor leagues hit the target, hang fire, or fizzle out? We might also call them "studs and duds." My mind plays old tapes of Dick and Bert, extolling all of the young talent that keeps rolling out of the Kansas City Royals' farm system. So? What do they have to show for so much talent? Too soon to tell? I hear my coach, whispering over my shoulder, "Let it play out, Mark. Let it play out."

      The sheer number of players, moving through the Twins system, waiting for their "shot" is impressive. Indeed, "no prospect is a sure thing," but the law of averages weighs in our favor. Variables like quality and quantity bring greater surety in this game. It comes down to a larger number of chances to hit the Target.



      All I know is this: This fan will enjoy seeing it all play out.
    1. blindeke's Avatar
      blindeke -
      if the Tigers can afford all their talent, so can we
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Unfortunately, I wanted Appel as well. Was generally upset by the pick.
      Ditto…but I am glad I was wrong. The problem was the critical need for pitching.
    1. kemics's Avatar
      kemics -
      Sano has to be added to the 40 man after this year anyhow, so I don't think that is really a concern, especially if there is a september call-up, might as well just leave him there.

      If the twins are looking to be competitive and have the pieces in place, I see no problem with them signing these guys. These aren't your daddy's twins, they have money and will spent it.

      However I can see a scenario where Sano is traded in order to restock the minors and free up payroll in order to sign Buxton long term. I think it's much easier to find a 1B/3B who can hit .280/.350 with 30+ hrs than it is a player like buxton.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Byron who? Never heard of this kid. Must be a bum.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      If you haven't seen Buxton go from first to third before


      No one has ever seen Buxton go from first to third. It's impossible to the naked eye.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Since we're sharing old Buxton videos, I'll re-post the following video of a Buxton triple I took last June. The first two videos above showed his defense and his power. This one shows off the speed.

      A couple of things to note: it's not easy to notice, but the ball he hits to RCF never reaches the wall, it's cut off by the outfielder and Buxton still triples. He did that more than once in CR. Also, check out the time it takes him to get from home to 3B. He makes contact at :06 in to the video and slides in to 3B at :16 seconds. Home to 3B in roughly 10 seconds.

    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      Since we're sharing old Buxton videos, I'll re-post the following video of a Buxton triple I took last June. The first two videos above showed his defense and his power. This one shows off the speed.

      A couple of things to note: it's not easy to notice, but the ball he hits to RCF never reaches the wall, it's cut off by the outfielder and Buxton still triples. He did that more than once in CR. Also, check out the time it takes him to get from home to 3B. He makes contact at :06 in to the video and slides in to 3B at :16 seconds. Home to 3B in roughly 10 seconds.

      Thanks for the re-post JC. I remember commenting at the time that supposedly Bo Jackson held the unofficial Home to 3B record at ~11.5 seconds. Bo also allegedly has the fastest 40 YD time ever at the NFL combine (4.12). Mickey Mantle supposedly has the fastest times- Home to 1B- 3.1 seconds battiing LH- and 3.5 seconds batting RH. And both of those times were aided by he fact that the Mick was drag-bunting. Buxton gets from Home to 1B in this clip in just a little over 3 seconds, and that of course, is while ROUNDING First Base.
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