It’s Byron Buxton.
It’s been nine months since we learned the Twins would have this year’s number two overall pick, and last night that wait ended with Minnesota selecting an immensely talented but equally unpolished high school outfielder from Georgia. The scouting reports unanimously agree that Buxton is a blazingly fast runner who will be a plus defender in the outfield, but that his hitting needs a lot of work in the minors, and he may never hit for power. Still, the Twins drafted the player in the draft who has the highest potential despite not having the first pick.
Minnesota badly needs pitching, and the obvious move would have been for them to select a power pitcher with this pick, but in a way it’s not the Twins’ fault that they did not. The top pitching prospects in the draft – Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman, and Kyle Zimmer – all come with enough question marks that it was hard to pass up a hitter like Buxton. In a perfect world, the Twins would have had a shot at a Stephen Strasburg style sure thing this draft, but that is not the way it went.
Buxton joins Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Joe Benson, and Max Kepler in a farm system full of talented outfielders. In a way, the surplus of outfield talent could eventually help solve the need for pitching. Hicks, Benson, Buxton, and current Twin Ben Revere all project as good to elite fielders, and having three of them partolling the field would be a major boost for a flyball pitcher. By 2017, it might be impossible to hit a triple against the Twins!
One downside of the Buxton pick is that he will not be able to help the Twins right away – or even in the near future. From my research several weeks ago, high school hitters are not likely to reach the Big Leagues until the fourth year after they get drafted, which means we should see Buxton in Minnesota some time in 2016 (if he makes it at all, which is no guarantee, especially for a high school player). Fellow high school outfielder Hicks was drafted four years ago, and still is not likely to make the Majors until at least next year, though it should be noted Buxton is a more impressive draft prospect than Hicks was. This pick is definitely a major risk, but the Twins obviously feel that Buxton’s potential will be worth the growing pains, the time investment, and the opportunity cost of selecting a pitcher like Appel.
In the supplemental round, the Twins appear to have made up some ground in the pitching game. They grabbed Puerto Rican high school arm Jose Berrios with the 32nd overall pick. The scouting reports I read tended to make it sound like this was a reach, and that Berrios could have gone in the second round, but he looks promising. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and since he’s young that might even improve. He also has a very good curveball that can be a Major League out pitch. His big task in the minors will be to develop a changeup; with that third pitch he could be a good MLB starter.
Instead of taking Minnesota native Mitch Brown with pick 42, the Twins selected Luke Bard, brother of Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard, out of Georgia Tech. The younger Bard can hit the mid-90s with his fastball as well, and he has a decent slider. Like Berrios, he’ll have to work on his changeup in the minors.
Brown, meanwhile, did not get the call on Day 1. The Twins have the second pick of Round 2 today, so it’s almost a guarantee that Brown will be there. But passing on Brown might still have carried some risk. If they select him today, he might opt to pitch in college and try to make himself a future Round 1 selection.