The Minnesota Twins have not won a playoff game since 2004, but help is on the horizon in the person of 19-year-old outfielder Byron Buxton.
Once-in-a-generation help, that is.
After winning the state championship as a senior at Appling County High School, Buxton became the second overall pick for the Twins and the team should reap the benefits for years to come.
Ranked as Baseball America's No. 1 prospect before the 2012 MLB Draft, Buxton has managed to exceed even the highest expectations during his first full season in the minors.
Early in his career, Buxton has shown that he’s competing for batting titles, having one of the highest on-base percentages in the game, hitting 20 to 25 home runs, stealing 50 bases and doing it all while playing Gold Glove defense in center field.
If that's not a unique prospect, then I don't know what is.
Only 73 games into the season, Buxton his batting .340 with 16 doubles, 10 triples and eight home runs. Perhaps an even more amazing stat is that he has walked 45 times to along with just 61 strikeouts, special numbers for a 19-year old in his first full season of minor league ball. Couple this with his 33 steals and amazing center field defense and you have one heck of a prospect.
Video of minor league players is difficult to find, but Buxton did make waves earlier this season when the catch shown below made rounds across the Internet. Note not only the difficulty of the actual catch, but also the fact that he makes it near the 407 foot sign in left-center field.
Evidence of his speed can also be found by skipping to the 3:48 mark in the video below. Buxton hits a routine groundball to third and turns it into an infield single. He takes long strides and you can see why scouts have consistently clocked him at a well-above average four seconds from home to first.
If speed and defense don’t tickle your fancy, then walk-off grand slams surely must. In the following clip from May 16 of this season, Buxton hits a no doubter to left to lift his team to a one-run victory in the bottom of the ninth.
Last season Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were hailed as two of the best young players the game had ever seen and Buxton has a chance to have every bit of the impact that those two young studs had.
Comparing Buxton to Harper is difficult since Harper's power is off the charts and he made the big leagues at Buxton's current age.
There is, however, an apt comparison to be made between Trout and the Twins' young center fielder.
Just as Trout did as a young outfielder in the minors, Buxton has received universal future 60 and above grades for all five of the major tools (on the 20-80 scouting scale).
At this stage in their careers, Buxton may even be more advanced, as many scouts are more impressed by his hitting approach. By all accounts, too, Buxton has a better arm. (one that he used to strike out 18 batters in his high school championship game.)
Other top prospects in the minor leagues include the Cardinals' Oscar Taveras, the Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts and top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker of the Mariners, but none of these players possess Buxton's combination of present and future skills.
Naysayers may point out that there have been dozens of alleged future stars in the minor leagues that never panned out in the majors, but what separates Buxton from them is his work ethic.
Since he's only in class High A now, (unfortunately) we likely won't see Buxton until the 2014 season at the earliest.
When he does make his debut, though, it will be the beginning of what will surely be a storied big league career.
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