Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/11/13
More than 250 players in the full-season minors out-homered Byron Buxton this season. Yet that didn’t prevent the 19-year-old center fielder from ranking as the No. 1 prospect in baseball at midseason or from winning the Midwest League MVP award or from—spoiler alert—ranking as the top prospect in both Class A leagues in which he played this season. The Twins even ticketed their uber-prospect in the words of one scout “The best minor leaguer I’ve ever seen” for the Arizona Fall League in October. Now Buxton can add one more feather to his cap: Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year a distinction he sewed up with an all-around game seldom seen from a teenager in his first full season. In stops at low Class A Cedar Rapids and—following a late-June promotion—high Class A Fort Myers Buxton hit a cumulative .334/.424/.520 with 49 extra-base hits 55 stolen bases and a sparkling 76-to-105 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 125 games. He led the minors with 18 triples finished second with 109 runs scored—one behind Marcus Semien of the White Sox—and 12th in stolen bases. More impressively Buxton ranked sixth in the minor league batting race 10th in hits (163) and seventh in on-base percentage despite being a full year younger than any other member of those top-10 lists. Adding another layer to his accomplishments is the fact that just 15 months ago scouts voiced concern about Buxton’s ability to adjust to quality pitching as he left the high school ranks for pro ball. The rapidity at which Buxton the second overall pick in the 2012 draft from Appling County High in Baxley Ga. has put those concerns to rest truly belies his youth. “You think ‘How can he get better?’ Well he’s going to get better” a pro scout for an American League club said. “He’s just going to get better with repetitions and with a little tweaking here and there.” So while Buxton’s 12 home runs this season eight of them in low Class A don’t overwhelm when compared with the output from top young sluggers such as the Rangers’ Joey Gallo (40) the Cubs’ Javier Baez (37) the Astros’ George Springer (37) or the Twins’ own Miguel Sano (35) he’s on virtually the same trajectory as another five-tool stud for whom power developed later—and suddenly. Angels center fielder Mike Trout took the baseball world by storm as a rookie in 2012 mashing 30 homers and leading the majors with 49 stolen bases and 129 runs scored. Yet just two years prior to that a teenaged Trout hit 10 home runs in 131 games during his full-season debut at two Class A levels one of them the notoriously hitter-friendly California League. Trout in 2010 excelled at many of the same things that Buxton did this season. He hit for average he drew walks he stole bases and he showed budding extra-base power. He even played for the same Cedar Rapids club in the Midwest League back when it was an Angels affiliate. To fully realize the eerie similarity between the two players the chart at right lays out how Buxton (age 19 all season) and Trout (who turned 19 on Aug. 7) compare in several traditional statistical categories and because this is Baseball America how scouts projected their tools at the time they played in low Class A. “The books are full of guys who didn’t show the power numbers in the low minors” the AL scout said “and (Buxton) is already showing it.” While scouts don’t necessarily see Buxton developing into the 30-homer beast that Trout has become they feel confident that he’ll go deep 20-25 times a year with regularity once he matures. “Buxton was by far the best I have seen in a long long time other than Trout” said high Class A Palm Beach manager Johnny Rodriguez who managed against Trout in the Midwest League in 2010. “Trout has more power but Buxton probably does more (things). He has a better arm. He is a better defender than Trout with better range and jumps. “They’re both so explosive and Buxton probably is a better hitter. He has fewer holes than Trout had. That’s what is so amazing Buxton has very loose hands and has such bat speed he just sits back on the ball and then explodes through it.”
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