MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins had the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, many assumed the club would select a starting pitcher.
After all, starting pitching was the organization's greatest need, and highly touted college right-handers Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer and Mark Appel were all available.
But the Twins stuck to their beliefs and went with who they thought was the top overall talent in the Draft, and selected high school outfielder Byron Buxton, who hailed from Baxley, Ga., a city of about 4,000.
So far, that decision has more than paid off, as Buxton has ascended to super-prospect status and is ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com.
Buxton, who turned 20 on Dec. 18, dominated in his first full year in the Minors, hitting a combined .334/.424/.520 with 12 homers, 18 triples, 19 doubles, 55 stolen bases, 77 RBIs and 109 runs in 125 games with Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers last season.
It earned him a slew of honors, including the Topps Minor League Player of the Year and Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, as well as comparisons to big league stars such as Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen.
"I got a lot better," Buxton said in December about his impressive season. "My pitch recognition got better. My discipline and patience got better and I drove the ball into the gap. I also got better at situational hitting and drove in some runs when we needed it."
Now, Buxton is set to get his first extended chance to show the Twins what he can do, as he was officially invited to Major League Spring Training on Thursday.
But Buxton knows he has plenty of work to do as he continues to advance through the Minor League system, and has been working hard with his father, Felton, who helps him train in Baxley during the offseason.
"I have to work on everything," Buxton said. "I ran the 40 and I was little bit faster. My arm is a little stronger. I've been lifting weights, so my hitting is getting better. I've been working on my swing."
Buxton added that he now runs the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, which is a few ticks faster than the 4.43 he ran last year. For comparison's sake, 4.37 would've ranked in the top six among all players in the NFL's scouting combine last year.
It's another amazing feat from a player who has proved he can do it all in the Minors, but Twins general manager Terry Ryan is more impressed by another quality of Buxton's.
"I think he's made unbelievable strides as far as maturing, not only as a player but as a person," Ryan said. "As far as taking the responsibility of what he is and who is he and where he's headed, I think he's done a wonderful job."
Buxton, who comes off as humble and sometimes shy in interviews, has become better equipped to deal with all that comes with being the game's top prospect. He did countless interviews throughout the season, including many during his stint in the Arizona Fall League, and has started to grow more comfortable dealing with the media and with fan attention.
"He just knows the responsibility that comes with being the best player in the Minor Leagues, according to some people," Ryan said. "He gets it."
Buxton's next goal is to have a strong showing in Spring Training and begin the year at Double-A New Britain.
He's still not expected to make his big league debut until 2015, but with the way he's outclassed his peers in the Minors, nothing is out of the question with Buxton. He said the key is patience, as he believes he has much to learn before he's ready for his Major League debut.
"I'm just preparing myself to be ready for that day," Buxton said. "It takes a little bit of time. You have to get that experience. You see better pitching every time you go up a level. You just have to be patient."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.