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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. jm3319's Avatar
      jm3319 -
      Honest question: Will people hate on Buxton if his power peaks in the teens for homeruns like they did/do for Mauer? We all know that leading the league in average, OBP, and Gold Glove defense doesn't cut it for some people around here.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      Honest question: Will people hate on Buxton if his power peaks in the teens for homeruns like they did/do for Mauer? We all know that leading the league in average, OBP, and Gold Glove defense doesn't cut it for some people around here.
      honest answer: probably!!
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      Honest question: Will people hate on Buxton if his power peaks in the teens for homeruns like they did/do for Mauer? We all know that leading the league in average, OBP, and Gold Glove defense doesn't cut it for some people around here.
      Dan Barreiro will for sure, especially if his RBIs top out in the 70-80 range. But you can't worry about the clueless.

      I'm looking forward to Buxton making the club in 2015. Here's hoping for health and success!
    1. Ncgo4's Avatar
      Ncgo4 -
      They won't care about Buxton's power...if. If Sano and Rosario are hitting behind him and batting in a hundred runs a year. Mauer's "problem" was/is that there is no one behind him to bring runs in. We need our star player to be Bobby Bonds. Rod Carew was great and accepted as such because he was followed by Killebrew and Oliva.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      sorry ncgo but that is not true. Mauer has been ripped on all along even when he has had Thome, Morneau, Kubel, Cuddyer and yes even D Young putting up big RBI numbers. Though to be fair, if he had Buxton's speed fans might have been less critical. If Buxton wins batting titles and GGs and hits lots of doubles and triples I don't care how many home runs he has.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      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."
      It does beg the question, if Buxton demonstrates that he's good enough this spring to play major league ball, then what are they waiting for? I have no problem moving Hicks to a corner spot and playing Buxton in CF right out of spring training. Nothing in Buxton's progression has indicated that his grasp of the game is tenuous. He's not just barely making it, he's dominating at every level.

      This reminds me a little of the fuss over bringing up Wayne Gretzky to the NHL at the tender age of 19. All he did was continue to amaze the world. Why not Byron Buxton? Who ya got that's better?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      It does beg the question, if Buxton demonstrates that he's good enough this spring to play major league ball, then what are they waiting for? I have no problem moving Hicks to a corner spot and playing Buxton in CF right out of spring training.

      Nothing in Buxton's progression has indicated that his grasp of the game is tenuous. He's not just barely making it, he's dominating at every level.

      This reminds me a little of the fuss over bringing up Wayne Gretzky to the NHL at the tender age of 19. All he did was continue to amaze the world. Why not Byron Buxton? Who ya got that's better?
      Simple answer. The Twins have no one that's even close. I get the strong feeling that Buxton will embarrass everyone else with what he can do in the OF this spring.

      But rather than bringing him up straight out of ST, as good as he is now defensively, he still undoubtedly needs PAs at a lower level, I think following the Mike Trout model for promotion (ie, the Gretzky of MLB) should be considered (it worked out well for the Halos):

      Trout
      2010 A level: 131 games-- .979 OPS/A+ level: .821 OPS
      2011 AA level 91 games-- .958 OPS/MLB level 41 games--.672 OPS*
      2012 AAA level 20 games-- .1091 OPS/MLB level 139 games-- .963 OPS

      Buxton
      2013 A level: 125 games-- .990 OPS/A+ level: .887 OPS
      2014 AA/AAA levels: 96 games?, 475 PAs?-- .900+ OPS?/MLB level 50 games?-- ???OPS**



      *(Trout had a .163 BA/.492 OPS in July and .400 BA/.1384 OPS in August, before falling back a bit in September).

      ** (Assuming that Buxton does well at New Britain/Rochester, call him up after the All Star break or when trades are made for the expiring FA contract-holders, whichever outcome has an open roster spot/starting role made available. This gives him the opportunity to either hit the ground running in 2015, or come up after a short stint at Rochester, ala Trout, to work on what he found out where he was deficient in 2014).
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      It does beg the question, if Buxton demonstrates that he's good enough this spring to play major league ball, then what are they waiting for? I have no problem moving Hicks to a corner spot and playing Buxton in CF right out of spring training. Nothing in Buxton's progression has indicated that his grasp of the game is tenuous. He's not just barely making it, he's dominating at every level.

      This reminds me a little of the fuss over bringing up Wayne Gretzky to the NHL at the tender age of 19. All he did was continue to amaze the world. Why not Byron Buxton? Who ya got that's better?
      I don't see any reason not to at least give Buxton at bats at the lower levels first. Let him see some better pitching, adjust and once he's dominating bring him up with confidence.

      I don't get the Gretzky analogy, are you referencing his age? The only reason Gretzky didn't start in the NHL was because the draft age was 20 at the time, not because he wasn't ready. He played in the WHA for 1 season , by the time he did reach the NHL with the WHA-NHL merger, the league had amended the draft age to 18, although he was technically never drafted.

      There was never a doubt he could play there, he certainly never played minor league hockey.
    1. Ncgo4's Avatar
      Ncgo4 -
      What happened to Hicks will have scared the bejesus out of the Twins. They will not do the same thing with Buxton & Sano and there is no way they end up in the Twin Cities after spring training. If either of them follows a torrid spring with a similar stint in the minors they could come back soon but not to start the year. Just my 2 cents.
    1. wagwan's Avatar
      wagwan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ncgo4 View Post
      They won't care about Buxton's power...if. If Sano and Rosario are hitting behind him and batting in a hundred runs a year. Mauer's "problem" was/is that there is no one behind him to bring runs in. We need our star player to be Bobby Bonds. Rod Carew was great and accepted as such because he was followed by Killebrew and Oliva.
      Not really Carew was a rookie in 1967 Killebrew and Oliva were gone before he got great. He was pretty much of a one man show in the Seventies...
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      Honest question: Will people hate on Buxton if his power peaks in the teens for homeruns like they did/do for Mauer? We all know that leading the league in average, OBP, and Gold Glove defense doesn't cut it for some people around here.
      I suppose so, but Buxton will have to lead the league in BA and OBP and win a Gold Glove.

      Which pose will be used for Buxton's Target Field statue? Whose hat will he wear for the HOF?

      I'm excited about the kid too, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      I suppose so, but Buxton will have to lead the league in BA and OBP and win a Gold Glove.

      Which pose will be used for Buxton's Target Field statue? Whose hat will he wear for the HOF?

      I'm excited about the kid too, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
      It will probably be a statue of him making that diving catch in the World Series. And a Twins hat, of course...how could he snub the team with whom he win so many rings?

      #itshappening
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ncgo4 View Post
      What happened to Hicks will have scared the bejesus out of the Twins.
      Terry Ryan's career dates back earlier than 2013, ditto others who will be involved in making such a decision. They are capable of deciding each case on its own merits, IMO, and don't dart back and forth based on the most recent experience they've had. If they decide to bring Buxton up despite what happened to Hicks when they tried it, it will be because Buxton the human being isn't Hicks the human being.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Simple answer. The Twins have no one that's even close. I get the strong feeling that Buxton will embarrass everyone else with what he can do in the OF this spring.

      But rather than bringing him up straight out of ST, as good as he is now defensively, he still undoubtedly needs PAs at a lower level, I think following the Mike Trout model for promotion (ie, the Gretzky of MLB) should be considered (it worked out well for the Halos):

      Trout
      2010 A level: 131 games-- .979 OPS/A+ level: .821 OPS
      2011 AA level 91 games-- .958 OPS/MLB level 41 games--.672 OPS*
      2012 AAA level 20 games-- .1091 OPS/MLB level 139 games-- .963 OPS

      Buxton
      2013 A level: 125 games-- .990 OPS/A+ level: .887 OPS
      2014 AA/AAA levels: 96 games?, 475 PAs?-- .900+ OPS?/MLB level 50 games?-- ???OPS**



      *(Trout had a .163 BA/.492 OPS in July and .400 BA/.1384 OPS in August, before falling back a bit in September).

      ** (Assuming that Buxton does well at New Britain/Rochester, call him up after the All Star break or when trades are made for the expiring FA contract-holders, whichever outcome has an open roster spot/starting role made available. This gives him the opportunity to either hit the ground running in 2015, or come up after a short stint at Rochester, ala Trout, to work on what he found out where he was deficient in 2014).
      The Trout comps are really exciting, but they make me squirm at the same time.

      Trout went 30-50 and 30-30 at 20 and 21. OPS of .963 and .988. Buxton has only 17 HR in almost 800 PA's. Looks to be a great player but the comp with one of the best seasons ever by a player that age is probably not realistic and setting is up for dissapointment.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Terry Ryan's career dates back earlier than 2013, ditto others who will be involved in making such a decision. They are capable of deciding each case on its own merits, IMO, and don't dart back and forth based on the most recent experience they've had. If they decide to bring Buxton up despite what happened to Hicks when they tried it, it will be because Buxton the human being isn't Hicks the human being.

      Exactly right----SIOW---- Buxton isn't Hicks!
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      The Trout comps are really exciting, but they make me squirm at the same time.

      Trout went 30-50 and 30-30 at 20 and 21. OPS of .963 and .988. Buxton has only 17 HR in almost 800 PA's. Looks to be a great player but the comp with one of the best seasons ever by a player that age is probably not realistic and setting is up for dissapointment.
      I'm not suggesting duplicate production numbers. I think we'll be happy with whatever he ends up bringing to the table from the leadoff position and his sensational play will leave us with few moments of disappointment.

      Comparing and contrasting the two, Buxton will clearly be a better defender. Trout will hit with more power. Buxton might get his high OPS numbers from his higher OBP and a high SLG from stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples. But it's also important to consider- Trout has significantly strengthened his body over the last couple years.....who knows what Buck will be capable of when he weighs 225 (anyone remember skinny Torii and skinny Puck)?
    1. richardkr34's Avatar
      richardkr34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      The Trout comps are really exciting, but they make me squirm at the same time.

      Trout went 30-50 and 30-30 at 20 and 21. OPS of .963 and .988. Buxton has only 17 HR in almost 800 PA's. Looks to be a great player but the comp with one of the best seasons ever by a player that age is probably not realistic and setting is up for dissapointment.

      Trout had 23 HRs in 1,117 AB during his minor league run.

      As far as scouting goes, from what I've heard is this: Buxton has more speed, a better glove, and a much better arm. Does he have the "feel" at the plate? That's what this year will answer.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Comparisons are fun and natural. They also get carried away at times. No matter how great a young talent may show, and end up being, each person/player is different to their own right.

      The Kirby Puckett we all know, love and remember is not the fleet, base stealing lead off CF he was early on.

      Give Buxton his time, and then give him his due. He may be Mays/Griffey part 2, or he may be a better Ricky Henderson. This year, next, or a season and a half from now. Any way, the future looks awesome.
    1. richardkr34's Avatar
      richardkr34 -
      Until the Twins have the next Clu Haywood in their system, I will not be satisfied.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by richardkr34 View Post
      Until the Twins have the next Clu Haywood in their system, I will not be satisfied.
      any and all Major League references are appreciated.
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