MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins didn't Draft first overall, but they still got the player many believe to be the most talented in this year's class.
Minnesota selected Byron Buxton, an outfielder from Appling County High School (Ga.), with the second pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft on Monday.
The Twins then used the 32nd pick on Jose Berrios, a right-handed pitcher from Puerto Rico's Papa Juan XXIII High School. The 6-foot, 190-pounder owns a fastball in the 92-94 mph range, topping out around 96. Berrios, 18, owns a hard curveball often confused for a slider, as well as a changeup with good movement. Minnesota obtained the compensation pick after losing Type A free agent Michael Cuddyer.
They finished their first day of the Draft by selecting Luke Bard, a right-handed pitcher from Georgia Tech, with the No. 42 pick. Bard recorded a 0.99 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with the Yellow Jackets this past season. Bard, originally selected by Boston with a 16th-round pick in 2009, is the younger brother of Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard. The departure of Type B free agent Jason Kubel brought Minnesota the pick.
At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, the right-handed hitting Buxton owns a bevy of physical tools impressive enough to make any Major League scout's mouth water. Comparisons to current pro players have ranged from B.J. and Justin Upton to Andrew McCutchen. Buxton's production isn't lacking either. The 18-year-old hit .513 with 17 doubles and 35 RBIs this spring for his high school club.
"He's a five-tool player," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. "Tremendous ceiling. He's a really good kid. Hard worker. Two-sport athlete. Everybody talks about his athleticism. He's got a really good swing. We think he's going to hit. We think he'll hit anywhere from No. 1 in the order to No. 3.
"He's got tremendous, tremendous upside."
Family and friends surrounded Buxton at a viewing party in his hometown of Baxley, Ga., as he heard his name announced.
"It was one of the best feelings I've ever had," Buxton said during a conference call. "I'm just blessed that the Minnesota Twins drafted me. I'm just ready to go play and have fun."
Of all the tools Buxton possesses, speed is at the top of the list. He's been clocked at 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash, Johnson said, and stole 38 bases this season as a senior.
Johnson compared Buxton's tools to Aaron Hicks, who was the last high school outfielder taken by the Twins in the first round when they selected him 14th overall in 2008.
But Johnson said Buxton is even faster, calling him an "absolute 8 runner" on a 2-8 scouting scale. And unlike other speedsters, Buxton's quicks translate to the field.
"We were out there scouting him about three weeks ago in a playoff game," Johnson said. "He scored from second base on a sacrifice fly to right field. I've never seen that in 19 years of scouting."
Some felt Buxton could have entered the Draft as a pitcher, and he would have been ranked almost as high.
The Georgia commit, who goes by "Buck", finished 10-0, striking out 154 over 81 innings. He also threw a complete game and fanned 18 batters on May 31 to clinch his high school's first state title.
If that wasn't enough, Buxton likely could have played football for any Division I school after earning all-state honors this fall as both a receiver and defensive back. Johnson said Buxton also fielded a scholarship offer to play wide receiver at Georgia.
Buxton is clearly overflowing with athleticism, but it wasn't until this past summer he shot to the top of many Draft boards. The watershed moment of his ascension came during the East Coast Professional Showcase last August in Lakeland, Fla. It was there that Buxton wowed Twins area scout Jack Powell, along with many others.
"He's the kind of guy that plays the game easy," Johnson said. "There's not a lot of effort to his game. He turned it on against some good velocity pitchers."
But general manager Terry Ryan and the rest of the Twins' front office have long placed a high premium on the makeup of their players. Buxton passes that test, too.
One such example took place during a summer game last year. With a teammate reaching first prior to his at-bat and the score tight, Buxton might have normally received a bunt sign from his coach, Braxton Jeffers. But with numerous scouts in attendance, Jeffers knowingly let Buxton swing away.
Buxton took matters into his own hands, choosing to advance his teammate to second with a sacrifice bunt.
"I was just trying to help my team," Buxton explained succinctly. "That's what I'm supposed to do. I put my team before I put myself."
Though Houston's selection of shortstop Carlos Correa with the first pick left Stanford pitcher Mark Appel available, Johnson was adamant that the Twins got the player they wanted in Buxton.
"Over the course of the spring, picking [No. 2], you have to pick who you feel will end up being the best player," Johnson said. "We felt Byron is the best player on our board."
The Twins have until 4 p.m. CT on July 13 to sign Buxton. Johnson didn't express any concerns about inking Buxton to a deal, though.
"This kid wants to play," Johnson said. "He's a baseball player. He's ready to get his career started."
Buxton is the first high school player taken by the Twins with a non-supplemental first-round pick since they chose Ben Revere -- another Georgia native -- with the 28th selection in 2007.
"This is the guy that we targeted from Day 1," Johnson said. "It's definitely a relief. But it's not done. We have two more picks to go."