Twins prospect Byron Buxton: comment from 2014 Baseball Prospect Book

Byron Buxton - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the best prospect in baseball, comparable to Mike Trout at the same stage of his career.

No, it is not insane to compare Byron Buxton to Mike Trout. Let me show you.

Here is the rough draft of Buxton's comment from the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. The book will have comments on over 1,000 minor league players from each of the 30 organizations, based on a combination of scouting reports and sabermetric analysis. Note that this is the rough draft, and that Buxton's comment is longer than typical.

Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 188 DOB: December 18, 1993
2013: Grade B+

Well holy shit. Seldom do you see a first-round pick exceed expectations. And not just any first round pick, but the second-overall pick. When the Twins drafted Buxton in 2012 out of Baxley, Georgia, they knew they were getting a superb athlete with excellent tools: speed, arm strength, power potential, it was all here. Despite that, Buxton didn’t always perform as well as he was supposed to against weak competition in high school, with swing mechanics a particular concern.

He performed well enough in rookie ball in 2012, but not even the optimists expected Buxton to do what he did in 2013: destroy the Midwest League (OPS +40 percent, SEC .459), then stay hot after moving up to the Florida State League (OPS+27, SEC .362). He also stole 55 bases, showed excellent strike zone judgment to go with the speed, played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field, and impressed all observers with excellent makeup and a professional approach to the game. There were certainly no more complaints about his swing mechanics. If you are looking for something to nitpick, Buxton hasn’t fully tapped his power potential yet, but the same thing was true of Mike Trout at that stage of his career.

Yes, I know, you’re not supposed to mention Mike Trout when mere mortals are discussed, but the comparison is not an exaggeration: Buxton has Trout-caliber tools, and he showed the requisite skills to use those tools last year. To carry the comparison further, Trout hit a combined .341/.428/.490 with 56 steals in A-ball in 2010, with a wRC+ of 173 in the Midwest League and a wRC+ of 116 in the California League. In 2013, Buxton hit a combined .334/.424/.520 with 55 steals with a wRC+ of 176 in the Midwest League and 155 in the Florida State League.
Trout's only statistical edge was fewer strikeouts: he whiffed in 14.1% of his plate appearances that year, while Buxton whiffed in 18.4%.

Did you catch that? Other than having a slightly higher (but not dangerous) strikeout rate, Buxton’s 2013 season was very close to, even slightly better than, Trout’s 2010. Also note that Buxton maintained a significantly better wRC+ than Trout did after his promotion, a reflection of the fact that the FSL is a more difficult hitting environment than what Trout faced in the Cal League. In case you are wondering, Buxton played the season at age 19, turning 20 this coming December. Trout turned 19 in August of '10, so he had a slight age edge.

Now, all of this doesn’t necessarily mean that Buxton will be better than Trout (who could be better than Trout?) in the majors, or even as good. But it does mean their tools and skill sets are similar, and the comparison is not overblown, at least at the same stage of their careers. Buxton has what it takes to be a superstar. Grade A.

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