Let's take a look at 10 of the most important attributes that should help to indicate what a prospect’s future might hold. Players are ranked on a scale of 1-10 by their qualities for each aspect, accumulating in a final prospect grade. Grades are based on what prospects can bring to the table from the current position they are projected to play in the major leagues.
Without further ado, let’s find out if Byron Buxton makes the grade…
1) Baseball IQ – Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on the Twins’ top prospect, "Obviously, the tools are through the roof, but his parents would be proud at how he handles himself, a great kid. He still says, ‘Yes, sir’ and I get mad at him because I’m not that old yet." Rating: 10 out of 10.
2) Batting-Eye – Buxton accumulated 105 strikeouts and 76 walks in 488 at-bats in 2013. It would be nice to see the strikeout-rate go down a little bit, but the outfielder still hit for a .334 batting average on the year. Rating: 10 out of 10.
3) Hit-Tool –Baseball America ranks Buxton as the best hitter for average in the Twins’ minor league system. The prospect is still young, and did struggle a bit in 12 games against top competition in the AFL, but the tools are in place to allow this bat to become a .300 hitter in the majors. Rating: 10 out of 10.
4) Power – Buxton hit 12 homeruns during the 2013 season. While that total is not very impressive coming from someone considered by many to be the top prospect in baseball, many scouts believe the power will continue to develop over time. The outfielder could develop into anywhere from a 15-to-30 homerun bat in his prime. Rating: 9 out of 10.
5) Speed – The speedy outfielder stole 55 bases in 2013, but was caught stealing an alarming 19 times. Buxton must improve upon his success rate if he wants to have the green light at the big league level. Still young and learning, I expect that rate to improve going forward. The skills-set says you should expect to see his name on SB leaderboards in the future. Ranking: 10 out of 10.
6) Body – At 6’2" and 190 pounds, the right-handed hitter has the tool set to develop enough power to hit in the middle of the batting order, but he already has the speed capable of being a top lead-off hitter and one of the league leaders in SB’s. Rating: 10 out of 10.
7) Durability – After playing in 12 games in the Arizona Fall League, Buxton was shut down for the rest of the off-season with a strained left-shoulder. The rest was more of a precautionary measure, as Buxton is expected to be fully healthy to enter the 2014 season. Rating: 10 out of 10.
8) Ceiling – Byron Buxton is the only prospect in baseball that can rival Mike Trout’s toolbox. Expecting any prospect to develop into the next Mike Trout is unrealistic, but everything is currently pointing towards a similar outcome. Keep your expectations in check, and then reap the benefits if the outfielder reaches his full potential. Rating: 10 out of 10.
9) Floor – There aren’t many coaches and scouts left wondering if this prospect could hack it at the big league level after getting a chance to watch him play. If Buxton isn’t a top fantasy option within 3 years, there will be a lot of people that will be very disappointed. Rating: 9 out of 10.
10) Future – The Twins believe their top prospect is ready to hone his skills at the upper levels of the minor leagues. Buxton is most likely ticketed to begin the season in Double-A, with a chance of reaching Minnesota by season’s end. Rating: 10 out of 10.
Overall Grade: 98% - A
Future Outlook: We are looking at an amazingly gifted athlete that has demonstrated success not only with the bat, but the glove as well. It is rarely noted how good of a pitcher Buxton was in high school, accumulating a 10-1 record with 154 strikeouts in 81 innings pitched. How the prospect adjusts to the top levels of the minor leagues will give us a better idea if we are looking at the next big prospect to take major league baseball by storm. The potential combination of HR’s and SB’s that Buxton is capable of totaling could propel him into the elite. Check out this must-read by John Sickels on how similar Buxton’s first full season in the minors compares to that of Mike Trout at the same age and level. I think fantasy managers would be happy owning someone considered to be Mike Trout-lite, but there is always a chance that he maximizes his potential and puts himself in a class of his own. At this point, it’s hard not to believe in Byron Buxton and his 1st round fantasy potential.