Last night, the Minnesota Twins selected Byron Buxton with the 2012 MLB Draft’s second overall pick. Many baseball analysts predicted that Buxton would hear his name called by the Astros, at the number-one overall slot. For the Twins, the young phenom’s availability was a pleasant surprise. Buxton has five-tool potential that rates with any centerfield prospect in the game, and he should be the best outfielder to call the Twin Cities home since Torii Hunter donned the uniform.
Appling County High School (GA)
Overall Future Potential: 63
Buxton is the 2012 draft classes’ top athlete. The Georgia native provides the dictionary example of a five-tool player. Blessed with blinding foot and bat-speed, a cannon arm and baseball instincts to match, he elicits comparisons to a young Eric Davis. High praise for Buxton, Davis was one of the best pure athletes to ever play on a big league diamond. Amazingly enough, Buxton was largely overlooked as a top prospect early in his high school career, largely due to his town’s remote location– Baxley is a two-hour drive from deep south city Savannah Georgia. But he’s burst on to the national scene with two colossal seasons and impressive performances on the All-Star circuit. He left scouts and spectactors in awe with the spectacular arm strength and swing power he displayed in the East Coast Pro Showcase and in the Under Armour All-American Game.
A star football player, Buxton has earned two All-State selections. Playing wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back, he caught fifteen touchdown passes during his junior season and he led the ACHS Pirates to the AA final four. He added sixteen more offensive touchdowns during his senior year and led the team in interceptions. He earned All-State honors at both wide receiver and defensive back. On the baseball field, he’s an even better performer. In his junior season, he put together a monster line, batting .597 with ten homeruns and 42 RBI. During the Under Armour All-American Game last August, he finished second in the Homerun Derby and nearly launched a ball completely out of the park during batting practice. During his senior season, he hit .549/.649/.852 and stole thirty-four bases through thirty-five attempts. Leading Appling County to the top of the Nation’s rankings, he proved not only a gifted hitter, but also a tremendous pitcher. At the World Wood Bat Association National Championship in July 2o11, he tossed fastballs that lit up radar guns, hitting 94 MPH on multiple occasions. He struck out thirteen batters en route to two saves and a complete game win.
Buxton’s best tool is his foot speed. He’s runs a legitimate 6.55 60 yard dash, and his wheels transfer to the diamond seamlessly. On a bunt attempt last season, he ran a blazing 3.88 to first base. A polished baserunner, he reads pitchers well and rarely gets gunned down. He’s been clocked stealing second in 3.18 seconds, a tenth of a second less than the average MLB base-stealer. In the outfield, his experience catching balls on the gridiron plays well, and he covers ground in center like a free safety. He plays all-out all the time with a Porsche motor, and his long, fluid stride allows him to glide in to the gaps.
At the plate, Buxton has premium potential. Setting up wide-open, he shows plus power to his pull-side during batting practice, and can drive the ball up the middle and to the opposite field with some authority as well. He hasn’t faced advanced competition on his high school circuit, but he has the tools to hit. He’s a patient batter with an unselfish approach. His loose hands and powerful base afford him easy power when he squares up pitches. His hand-eye coordination and plate vision helps him put the bat on the ball, and he’s decent enough at hitting offspeed. His bat control and swing mechanics need some work, as he has some trouble lofting pitches on the outer quadrants of the plate, and he often sacrifices power for contact late in the count. For a young kid out of a deep South town though, he’s very advanced.
Buxton has the potential to be a superstar big leaguer. He’s not a boom or bust prospect though, as his makeup, mental toughness and dedication to the game should mesh with pro coaching very well. He’s already a fairly polished product, and he shouldn’t be too much of a project to develop. It also helped that his athleticism and cannon arm make pitching a nice fallback option.
Many expect the Astros to select Buxton number-one overall on draft day. If Houston decides to go another route, taking Appel or Giolito instead, Buxton will almost certainly hear his name called by the Twins– a franchise that is absolutely enamored by ability.