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Bryon Buxton continues to impress

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Byron Buxton speeds down the first base lineStop me if you have heard this already but Bryon Buxton is doing stupid good stuff on the baseball field.

Already Buxton has proven that he is far and above the competition level in the Midwest League. He is leading the league in on-base percentage (.431), slugging (.561), runs scored (65) and weighted on-base average (.422). More conventionally, he is second in batting average (.344) and triples (8), and third in walks (40). That does not even begin to scratch the surface of his defense capabilities and baserunning prowess. Buxton is having the best performance by an outfielder in Iowa since Shoeless Joe Jackson came waltzing through the cornfield (or at least since Mike Trout anyways).

During Fox Sports North’s road trip to Cedar Rapids last week, the televisions in the big city were able to tune in and see what amounts to one of the most stupendous grabs by a center fielder at any level this year.

In case the video clip does not allow you to fully appreciate the difficulty of this catch, please follow along Buxton’s route in order to kill what was most assuredly an extra base hit coming off the bat. From mid-center field, Buxton races to gap, hooking at the end of the route, and makes a leaping dive just before the warning track to send the hitter back to the dugout shaking his head in dismay. This play would have netted him 15,000 UZRs in my book.

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In fact, thanks to his performance, Buxton has put Cedar Rapids back on the map since, well, since the time someone actually penciled Cedar Rapids on a map. Buxton has more speed than the entire Fast & Furious franchise. He has more tools than Home Depot. His future is so bright that we will excuse him when he wears sunglasses indoors even though that is the douchiest move ever.

The Twins and scouts will tell you that they knew this would his path from day one. From the moment they laid eyes on kicking up dust rounding the bases in the Georgia clay they knew he was special. When it comes to drafting players, Terry Ryan said that the scouts will be looking for the skills rather than the results. Buxton, said Ryan, had all the skills. Not some: All the skills. It would only be a matter of time before this kid turns into a full-blown super-duper-star.

Of course, that’s not the case. It takes plenty of conditioning throughout the minor leagues to develop any player into major-league ready contributor. Rarely can a player simply advance without the necessary prep time. While Buxton came to the Twins organization teeming with talent, there are some adjustments the 19-year-old has made – particularly to his approach at the plate.

Prior to his draft Buxton was on the radars of all the prospect hounds. In this prospect showcase clip captured by Baseball America, we see Buxton, a few months away from his national selection, putting on a display in front of scouts:

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Look at the length of that stride. With an upright and open stance, Buxton has a significant leg lift and then brings it in. This generates power but leaves him susceptible to more polished pitching. Now, compare that approach to his current model, a little over a year later in this clip supplied by Heinitz Photography:
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Buxton now exhibits a widened base with little stride in his swing. Mechanically speaking, this reduces the potential head movement and should improve contact -- which is very important for someone with his speed.

He will soon be the Florida State League’s problem – whose pitchers are just recovering from the destruction left behind by Hurricane Sano – but Buxton’s ability to make large scale adjustments to improve his long-term effectiveness bodes well. While the scouts get a lot of adulation for finding and signing Buxton, credit goes to the Twins instructors and coaches as well for refining what could be a once-in-a-lifetime-type talent.
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