While prospect writers are always looking for that next diamond in the rough, there still remains a great appreciation for that player that could be the next great star of the game. With that in mind, let's take a look at one of the few prospects in the minors right now who could fit that profile, Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins.
Buxton was viewed coming into his draft year as the top high school prospect available by Baseball America, and generally expected to be a top-5 overall pick. He did little to dissuade that notion his senior year, hitting .513/.513/.803 with three home runs, 35 runs batted in, and 38 stolen bases in 117 at bats. There were concerns about the level of competition that Buxton faced, given where he played his high school ball in Georgia. However, the possibilities for Buxton's tools were immense: a plus runner with consistent sub-4.0 times to first, excellent bat speed with the potential for power down the line, and a potential plus defender in center field who would have an arm that would also be above-average. In short, a true five-tool talent, who also is expected to provide a high on-base percentage and is considered to have excellent makeup.
The Astros ended up passing on Buxton, which was the Twins' gain instead. The Twins were able to sign Buxton to a $6 million bonus, and sent him to their Gulf Coast Affiliate to start his professional career. In 27 games there, he hit .216/.324/.466 with four home runs, four stolen bases, and 11 walks in 102 plate appearances. They even sent him to their Appy League affiliate in Elizabethton, where he played another 21 games, hit ..286/.368/.429 with a home run and seven stolen bases.
The Twins sent Buxton to full season ball for 2013, with Low-A Cedar Rapids. Through his walk-off grand slam on Thursday night, Buxton is hitting .343/.445/.594 with six home runs, 32 runs batted in, 16 stolen bases, 27 walks and 32 strikeouts in 143 at bats. His quick-and-dirty on pace numbers for the full minor league season? .343, 23 HR, 159 R, 121 RBI, 60 SB. Remember, those are for the minor leagues' 144 game schedule, not the MLB 162 standard. Now clearly, he's not going to keep up at that kind of pace, right? Seems unlikely, but we're still looking at an outfielder who is expected to hit for a high average, provide solid power (probably 15-20 HR) with the potential to provide more down the road, and 30+ stolen bases, which could be on the low end some years. He'll also provide solid value in leagues with OBP as a category, and all in all is expected to be a fantasy monster.
The Twins are known for moving prospects through the system slowly, but at the same time they haven't had a prospect with the kinds of tools that Buxton has since Joe Mauer. He could potentially see a promotion if he keeps this pace up through the All-Star break, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him at AA by the end of 2014. Your opportunity to get Buxton at a discount is likely over, as he will likely be a top-5 prospect on next year's top 100 lists. That said, I would absolutely have him as one of my top targets if you are in the process of rebuilding your dynasty team.