MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Each day this week, we state the case for a player to be named baseball's No. 1 prospect.Twins outfielder Byron Buxton
MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Each day this week, we state the case for a player to be named baseball's No. 1 prospect.
Twins outfielder Byron Buxton ranked No. 1 on MLBPipeline.com's midseason Top 100 Prospects in 2013. And again on the preseason and midseason Top 100s in 2014. And yet again on the preseason and midseason lists in 2015.
Making the case for the No. 1 overall prospect
Buxton accumulated 129 at-bats in his big league debut last year, two short of graduating from rookie and prospect status, so he's still eligible for the Top 100. And while there might be some Buxton fatigue, he still deserves to rank atop the list for the sixth straight time.
No prospect comes close to equaling Buxton's brilliant all-around tools. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft behind Carlos Correa, Buxton has top-of-the-line speed, plus-plus hitting ability, center-field skills and arm strength and at least solid power potential.
Sum up his five tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents average, and Buxton's total 340. (400 is the maximum for the five tools.) On the soon-to-be-revealed Top 100, Nationals center fielder Victor Robles is a distant second at 300, followed by Yankees shortstop (and Minor League stolen-base champ) Jorge Mateo at 295. Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia, Rangers outfielder Lewis Brinson, Red Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada, Royals shortstop Raul Adalberto Mondesi and Brewers outfielder Brett Phillips all come in at 290.
Though he has advanced rapidly as a pro, Buxton has had no trouble translating his physical ability into results. He has hit .301/.383/.489 with 108 extra-base hits (28 homers) and 94 steals in 276 pro games. Buxton didn't immediately dominate in the Majors, batting .209/.250/.326, though in his defense, he was 21 and had just 60 games of experience above Class A Advanced when he first arrived in Minnesota.
Top 10 Prospects by Position
If there's a knock on Buxton, it's that a variety of injuries have limited him to 149 games in the past two seasons. He strained his left shoulder in the Arizona Fall League in 2013, hurt both wrists and sustained a concussion during the regular season before breaking his left middle finger in the AFL in 2014, then sprained his left thumb after joining the Twins last summer.
None of those injuries is a chronic issue, however. They all can be categorized as flukes, resulting from an errant swing, diving for balls in the outfield, getting hit by a pitch, an outfield collision and sliding mishaps. There's no reason to suspect that Buxton will make annual trips to the disabled list.
There's plenty of reason to believe that Buxton will be a superstar. The last prospect to shoot through the Minors with comparable tools was Mike Trout, who had less arm strength but was a more advanced hitter at the same age. Since struggling in his big league debut, Trout has been the best player in baseball over the past four seasons.
Expecting anyone to match Trout is asking a lot. Even if he doesn't, Buxton projects as a future .300 hitter who could provide 20 homers and 40 steals per year, not to mention Gold Glove defense at an up-the-middle position. No one else on the Top 100 list can make that kind of impact, and no one else should rank No. 1.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.