Byron Buxton, the consensus #1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com prior to the 2014 season, has suffered another injury. According to Twins beat writer Mike Berardino, Buxton jammed the middle finger on his right hand while attempting a diving catch in the Arizona Fall League. This is the sixth injury Buxton has suffered since July, according to Berardino:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Buxton injuries since 7/13: Bruised R big toe (nail removed) Strained L shoulder Sprained L wrist Bruised R wrist Concussion Jammed finger</p>— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) <a href="https://twitter.com/MikeBerardino/status/526907322879442944">October 28, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Before Buxton's string of injuries, he was hyped as baseball's next great player. Early in 2014, Baseball America's Ben Badler told SB Nation's Marc Normandin here that he thinks Buxton should contend for MVPs annually:
"Players like Xander Bogaerts, Addison Russell, Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez, Miguel Sano and some of the other best prospects in the game all could be perennial all-stars, but they also have flaws that you can see holding them back from reaching their potential. With Buxton, it's not just the elite potential, but how few weaknesses he has in his game, which is tremendously well-rounded and polished for his age. He should be contending for MVPs annually, and relatively speaking, he doesn't come with much risk, either."
An American League scout explained to us that five average or better tools for a single player is "rare" -- you have a very productive, very well-rounded major-league player if they are capable of average-or-better batting, throwing, running, fielding, and power. Buxton's tools aren't average or better, however: they're all at least plus, and that is "nearly unheard of," per our AL scout. To top it off, Buxton isn't even just plus across the board: his defense in center and his speed are both plus-plus -- the ratings don't go any higher than that. What kind of player and future do all of those incredible tools add up to? When asked what kind of ceiling Buxton had, a National League scout declared that Buxton projects as "a better player than Mike Trout", thanks to his collection of plus and plus-plus tools combined with "terrific" makeup that makes him a special talent like Trout.
"A better player than Mike Trout" should grab the attention of fantasy owners, especially in dynasty and keeper leagues.
After sustaining a wrist injury in spring training in March, Buxton made his 2014 debut in the Florida State League on May 4, but re-aggravated his wrist injury just five games into his season and did not return until the first week of July. Buxton struggled in his return, producing only a 106 wRC+ in 134 PA, down from a 155 wRC+ in 2013 in the FSL. His K% also rose from 19.4% in 2013 in the FSL to 24.6% in 2014. Buxton then missed the final two weeks of the season after he suffered a concussion after a brutal collision in the outfield.
Buxton's injuries hopefully won't affect his long term profile, but the missed repetitions in 2014 will hurt his development in the short term. He struggled to regain his form in the FSL this year and we can expect his MLB debut to be pushed back further as he continues to knock the rust off in the minor leagues.