Byron Buxton had been named by Baseball America as the top prospect in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Last year's first round pick for the Twins didn't spend the entire season in the GCL but it was long enough to make his mark on the league. In 27 games for the GCL Twins, Buxton hit .216/.324/.466 with 11 extra-base hits including four home runs. He would spend the rest of the season with the Elizabethton Twins as they made their march to an Appalachian League Championship. It had to be a memorable year for Buxton as he graduated high school, became the second pick in the MLB Draft, and started his professional baseball career.
Terry Ryan was asked about Buxton in an interview after Baseball America announced their pick for outstanding prospect in the GCL. He had nothing but glowing remarks for Buxton and his play with the Twins organization. One of the quotes included, "He's a great teammate, he cares, he tries to pay attention to detail-- all those things you can't scout." It sounds like the Twins are happy with the make-up of their blooming prospect but what about the rest of his game.
"The only thing I was worried about was how much power he had. He's got power. He can hit the ball a long way," Ryan said later in the interview. As an 18-year old, Buxton had five home runs and 10 doubles across both levels he played at with the Twins organization. When Buxton was in the Twin Cities to finalize his deal with the club, he got the opportunity to take batting practice at Target Field. There were reports of him putting at least one or two balls into the bullpen in deep center field so his power seems to be legit. As a teenager, he is tall and lanky so there is room for him to continue to grow into his frame in the coming years. This should only add more power to an already powerful swing.
One of the more interesting quotes in the article stated that Buxton is the faster player in the Twins system "by far," and he is faster than the current speedy outfielder for the Twins, Ben Revere. Buxton showed some of his speed in the GCL by stealing four bases in seven chances but that isn't the greatest steal percentage in the world. When he shifted to the Appalachian League, he racked up seven steals and he was never thrown out in any of those opportunities. The art of the steal can be something a player has to develop in the minor leagues. Fans of the Twins have been spoiled with Revere's speed in the last two seasons and it's fun to imagine Buxton being a faster version of Revere with plenty of more pop in his bat.
Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton set the minor league stolen base record this season by swiping 155 bases between two different levels. The thoughts of Buxton trying to break this record in the future might not be at the top of the wish list for fans of the Twins. Hamilton is more of a light-hitting middle infielder so he doesn't hit for a lot of power. This gives him the opportunity to steal more bases because he is on first a lot of the time when he gets on base. In his four seasons in the minors, Hamilton has seven home runs and Buxton already has five in his first season. It's nice for Buxton to have the speed but hopefully it will translate into turning doubles into triples over stealing second base.
The outfield of the future for the Twins could be a conglomerate of some very talented and speedy defensive players. Ben Revere is still under team control for multiple seasons so he might have to be the player to mentor Buxton into the big leagues. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are going to be knocking on the door to the big leagues in 2013 and there's hope they can stay in the team's long-term plans. An outfield with Revere, Hicks, and Buxton manning all three positions might be one of the best defensive line-ups in the game and their speed on the bases could be exciting to watch.
These happy thoughts of top prospects turning into wonderful major league players are still a couple of years away. Until then, we will have to be happy with beating the Yankees and trying to help the Orioles win the American League East.