ESPN's Keith Law wrote that Byron Buxton could be a "faster Andrew McCutchen with more value on defense," and since there are no readily available photos of Buxton in SB Nation's database, please accept this picture of Cutch-22's wheels in full force. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
The Twins selected at No. 2, No. 32, and No. 42 overall on the first night of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, and in doing so added the likes of Byron Buxton, Jose Orlando (J.O.) Berrios, and Luke Bard (Daniel's younger brother) to their farm system -- assuming, of course, that all three sign.
While many wanted to see the Twins take a reactionary approach to the state of the organization and draft a college pitcher who could help immediately, GM Terry Ryan, scouting director Deron Johnson, and vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliffe opted to select who they felt was the best talent overall at each stop. You can be irritated or thrilled with this route -- that's your own personal choice. For what it's worth, most draft gurus and those in the scouting industry will caution against drafting based on positional need, as passing up superior talent will often haunt.
I'd like to look at the trio over the next few days (as my admittedly hectic schedule will permit), and provide readers with some insight from scouting and prospect gurus around the country. I'll start with Buxton, and dive right into things after the jump.
The Golden Boy of the draft, most major draft outlets listed Buxton as the most talented player in the draft. That the Twins got the consensus player with the highest upside, despite selecting second, should be considered a positive (especially when factoring in that Stanford RHP Mark Appel, who most had going 1-1, wasn't selected first). Of Buxton, BA has the following to say:
The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder has a high-waisted frame that oozes projection. He hasn't hit for big power this spring, with just two home runs, though he flashes plus raw power in batting practice and was runner-up (to Lewis Brinson) in last year's home run derby prior to the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field. Buxton's speed plays more presently, as he steals bases easily and covers acres of ground in center field. Some scouts have given him top-of-the-scale grades for both his speed (others call it well above-average) and at times for his throwing arm.
I won't give BA's entire scouting report on Buxton (I can't bring myself to copy and paste entire write-ups from behind pay walls), but it's worth noting that they go on to say...
...as an amateur, he's shown the ability to sit back on offspeed pitches and hit them with authority the other way. Comparisons for Buxton range from Matt Kemp to a hybrid of brothers B.J. and Justin. Like Justin Upton, and he ranks as the top talent in his draft class.
That's high praise for any talent. It's all projection at this point, but so, too would be the case with Appel, Kevin Gausman (RHP, LSU, taken fourth overall), and Kyle Zimmer (RHP, USF, taken fifth overall). I initially was in favor of Zimmer, but having read constant glowing reports on Buxton, I can say that I'm thrilled that the Twins have added talent of his caliber to the organization.
ESPN's Keith Law broke down Buxton's tools using the 20-80 scouting scale, and provided readers with the following assessment of the pick he calls"by far the highest upside prospect in this year's draft" (Present Rating followed by Future/Projected Rating):
- Hitting (35, 70)
- Power (35, 60)
- Running Speed (80, 80)
- Fielding Range (50, 70)
- Arm Strength (70, 70)
Law tells readers that Buxton runs effortlessly and is even faster in the outfield than he is in short bursts (e.g. home to first). According to Law, Buxton should hit for "at least average power," and he opines that there's more in the tank as Buxton fills out physically. Law's final Buxton gushing reads:
...he could be an offensive and defensive force in the middle of the diamond, a faster Andrew McCutchen with more value on defense, or Matt Kemp with a grade less power. There's no player with more upside available in this draft pool.
I asked Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus on Twitter last night if Buxton immediately passes Miguel Sano as the Twins' top prospect. Goldstein replied that Buxton doesn't instantly achieve that status for him, although it's worth noting that he considers Sano a Five-Star prospect whom he ranked 12th in all of Major League Baseball this February. Leap-frogging that type of reverence would be difficult for any draftee, save for the Bryce Harpers and Stephen Strasburgs of the world.
Now, of course I've stuck to highlighting Buxton's positives for the majority of the post. He's not without fault. He's a bit old for a high school pick (already 18-and-a-half), and didn't hit for much power in 2012 (note the two homers in the BA excerpt). Law says that this, along with his lack of experience against advanced pitching, has led some to question how he'll adjust to pro pitchers and if the power will come along. His swing can get long, and he lifts his back foot as he rotates which is a correctable, but noticeable flaw.
The power is there though. As noted in BA's review, he put on a show in finishing runner-up in the Under Armour All-America Game home run derby (note: video isn't all home run derby, but keep in mind when watching his homers that this was at age 17).
Buxton may not be a pitcher who can step into the rotation in the near future and restore some semblance of respect to the beleaguered crew (though as a testament to his athleticism, he's been clocked at 99 mph on the mound), but by all accounts he appears to be the top talent in this year's draft. The Twins took note of their flawed farm system and opted to impact it in the most significant way possible. It's up to them now to harness the raw abilities that Buxton possesses, and mold him into a Major League player -- ideally one with All-Star potential (and not "Mark Redman All-Star potential," but real All-Star potential). It's perfectly fair to argue that they've been unable to do so with the majority of their recent early draft picks. It's also fair to note that they haven't had a package like Buxton to work with in quite some time, if ever.
Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, and Joe Benson may all have been drafted as toolsy high school center fielders, but none came with the gifts of Byron Buxton. As a result, the expectations for that trio will pale in comparison to those of Buxton. Here's hoping that both he and the Twins are up to the challenge.
The Twins passing on Appel, Gausman, and Zimmer doesn't mean there isn't an top flight starter in the making lying in the weeds. Not every elite arm is a Justin Verlander (No. 2 overall) story. Others, like Cliff Lee (Fourth round, 2000), Dan Haren (Second round, 2001), and C.J. Wilson (Fifth round, 2001) have lingered long enough to tell us that help is out there. It's all a matter of finding it, and honing it.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors, RotoAuthority, and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve