Bryant, Buxton or Correa? Execs make picks
Byron Buxton, Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa entered 2015 ranked as MLBPipeline.com's top three prospects (in that order), then started the season in the Minors before their rejuvenated and contending parent clubs sent for them. Bryant got the call from the Cubs on April 17, Correa joined the Astros on June 8 and Buxton debuted with the Twins on June 14.
Three prospects of this magnitude haven't burst on the big league scene so close to each other since Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Matt Moore arrived to stay in April 2012. Buxton, Bryant and Correa all were selected with a No. 1 or 2 overall pick in the Draft, and they have shown why during their brief time in the Majors.
Bryant, 23, has been the second-most productive hitter in the Cubs' lineup, batting .275/.381/.466 while filling a gaping hole at third base. Correa, 20, has the best numbers (.287/.309/.543) among Houston's regulars and has played sterling defensive at shortstop, rendering injured Jed Lowrie unlikely to reclaim his job. Buxton, 21, hit just .189/.231/.270 in 11 games with Minnesota before going on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb, but he still flashed the all-around tools that scouts say are the best since Trout's.
It's easy to look at their scouting reports and statistics and peg Bryant, Buxton and Correa as future superstars. It's far more difficult to discern who will be the best of that trio, but that's just the question we posed to high-ranking evaluators from a variety of clubs.
"Wow!" said a senior adviser with a National League team. "Do you want a Bentley, Mercedes or Ferrari?"
Bryant was the No. 1 choice, receiving more than half the votes, followed by Correa and then Buxton.
Bryant's power carries the day
Scouts have a difficult time recalling the last prospect with as much guaranteed usable power as Bryant. He led NCAA Division I with 31 homers in 2013 -- more than 223 of the 296 teams at that level hit that year -- before topping the Minors with 43 in his first full pro season. After going homerless in his first 20 games with the Cubs, Bryant has gone deep 10 times in his next 47, and his backers believe there are many more homers in his future.
"There's a good chance he has multiple 40-plus homer seasons," an American League director of player personnel said. "In addition, he has above-average on-base skills, good baserunning and he's defensively versatile."
"Bryant just has that great flair for the dramatic," an AL special assistant said. "He's a 55 hitter with 75 usable power [on the 20-80 scouting scale]."
"It's Bryant for me, but it's a really hard call between Correa and him," an AL assistant GM said. "His maturity and strike-zone control along with his obvious tool package are awesome. Playing in Chicago is much different than Houston, and his ability to handle that is key for long-term success."
Correa could have more diverse skills
The shortstop's power potential was his most enticing tool when the Astros drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012. While Correa still projects to have plenty of pop, it since has been surpassed by his hitting ability and arm strength. Correa is a better athlete than Bryant, and he's 32 months younger and is a lock to stay in the infield, something his proponents cited more than once.
"He has youth and plays a premium position with power potential," an AL senior scouting executive said. "His offensive upside with ability to stay on the dirt gives him the most ceiling, and his age gives him the best chance to reach superstar status and room for improvement along the way."
"I would take Correa because he is an offensive player at a defensive position and a great defensive player," the NL senior adviser said. "It is like having two players."
Buxton has unparalleled tools
The young Twins outfielder hasn't made an immediate impact in the Majors, which probably contributed to him garnering just one vote. But there's no question that Buxton's array of tools is superior to Bryant's and Correa's. No one will dare say that he'll be better than Trout, the best young player in baseball history, but from a physical standpoint, Buxton showed more power earlier in his career and definitely has a stronger arm.
"I would be ecstatic to have any one of these three players," a second AL assistant GM said. "If I have to discern between them, I would separate Correa and Buxton above Bryant simply based on their abilities to deliver well-above-average defense at premium positions. Ultimately, I will take the plus power, plus speed, plus defense package of Buxton No. 1."
Several of the evaluators who opted for Bryant or Correa couldn't help but rave about Buxton's all-around ability, which gives him a higher ceiling than Bryant or Correa.
"He's a toolshed center fielder with all five tools," said the AL director of player personnel, who ranked Buxton third. "Plus bat, eventual plus-plus power, elite baserunning and stud defense. I would love to have any of the three, and they all should be long-term stars."