Buxton injects speed, defense for Twins
Top prospect gets callup to add production in center field
Coming into the season, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, Cubs third basemen Kris Bryant and Astros shortstop Carlos Correa were the three players who could lay claim to the title of best prospect in the Minors. Now none of them can. Bryant joined Chicago in mid-April, Correa arrived in Houston last week and now Buxton is headed to Minnesota.
Buxton, ranked No. 1 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, will join the Twins Sunday in Arlington, Texas. The 21-year-old makes the jump from Double-A Chattanooga, where he hit .283/.351/.489 with six homers and 20 steals in 59 games. He leads the Minors with 12 triples and the Southern League with 44 runs scored.
A promotion this soon for Buxton appeared unlikely at the beginning of the season, because he played in just 31 games last year while dealing with injuries to both wrists and a concussion. Additionally, Minnesota wasn't expected to contend, so there was no apparent need to rush him.
With the Twins off to a surprising 33-28 start that puts them in the American League's wild-card lead and the club getting little out of its center fielders, Buxton gets the call. Minnesota center fielders have combined for a .583 OPS, the second-worst in baseball at the position.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft behind Correa, Buxton signed for a franchise-record $6 million. He won Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year Award in 2013, his only full and healthy pro season, while eliciting comparisons to Mike Trout.
Buxton has electrifying tools. He provides advanced hitting ability, plenty of bat speed, top-of-the-line foot speed, Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field and a well above-average throwing arm. His worst attribute is his power -- and he projects to hit 20 or more homers on an annual basis.
Because he has played just 60 games above Class A and none above Double-A, Buxton may need some time to get acclimated to big league pitching. But he can help win games with his baserunning and defense, and he should provide more offense than the Twins were getting out of Aaron Hicks, Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson. In time, Buxton should become a superstar.