The Twins took high school outfielder Byron Buxton with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft last night, and if nothing else, Byron Buxton is a pretty great baseball name.
This draft wasn’t considered to be a terribly loaded one, and most outlets – including Baseball America, ESPN and MLB.com, all named Buxton as the top available player. Stanford ace Mark Appel was supposedly the favorite to go No. 1, but he ended up slipping to 8th, perhaps in part to signability issues.
Anyway, the Twins could certainly use a close-to-ready pitcher like Appel, but that’s what they chose with each of their last two picks, and those haven’t panned out well so far. In addition, there are some scouts who think Appel is more of a No. 2 or even No. 3 starter as opposed to a future ace, so I won’t complain that they landed the guy most believe was the most talented available player in the draft.
That said, prior to Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers — the guys the Twins took with their last two No. 1 picks only to see injuries slow (and even threaten) their development — the Twins have actually had a pretty good run of success taking college pitchers high in the draft.
Matt Garza and Glen Perkins were taken in the first round, Scott Baker, Jesse Crain and Kevin Slowey in the second. While none of them turned into superstars, all would certainly go in the ‘win’ column as far as draft choices go.
And taking toolsy high school position players has blown up in the Twins faces several times.
The Twins took outfielder BJ Garbe 5th overall in 1999, and he never made it higher than Double-A, retiring in 2006 after batting .235 with 37 homers in 8 minor-league seasons.
They took infielder/outfielder Matt Moses in the first round in ’03, and let him hang around long enough to play a whopping 427 games for the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats. He hit just .238 in those 427 games, and batted .224 in one 48 game stint at Triple-A. He never reached the majors, and retired after the ’09 season.
A year after taking Moses the Twins took Trevor Plouffe in the first round. Like Moses, he was a shortstop whom the Twins could always move elsewhere if need be. Indeed, after failing to prove he can handle shortstop at the big league level, Plouffe, who will soon turn 26, is alternating between third base and the outfield.
He’s hit .220 in 138 games in the big leagues, and a full eight years after the Twins drafted him, is still trying to prove he’s a legit major leaguer. He has hit 17 homers in 436 at-bats, and compared to Garbe and Moses, he’s not a total bust.
Chris Parmelee went No. 1 as a rare high school corner infield power prospect in 2006. He’s shown some promise, and is tearing it up in Triple-A right now, but is far from a sure thing.
Ben Revere went No. 1 in 2007 and has yet to prove he’s more than a fourth outfielder.
Aaron Hicks, whom Buxton could be compared to, went No. 1 in 2008, and after a strong start to his minor league career, has stalled in Double-A. A guy who was once considered untouchable now wouldn’t likely draw great offers in a trade.
Buxton could end up like any of those guys. But to be fair, I kind of cherry-picked those names. The Twins have drafted high school position players that have turned into quality players.
Joe Mauer worked out pretty good as the No. 1 overall pick in 2001. Michael Cuddyer in 1997 and Denard Span in 2002 were also hits. Torii Hunter took about seven years to develop, but he was one of the best draft picks the Twins ever made (20th overall in 1993).
Justin Morneau was a third-round selection, Jason Kubel a 12th-rounder, both high school draftees.
So in some ways, this is all a long way of saying that there’s really no way of knowing, today, just what the Twins have in Byron Buxton. While 1st round picks in the NFL and NBA are almost guaranteed to get, at minimum, a couple years in the big time, nearly every single player taken in the MLB draft faces a long road just to reach the big leagues, let alone become a star. There have been drafts where a major league team selected 50 players or more and none of them – not one – ever reached the big leagues. Which is utterly amazing, and a little scary for fans and the people charged with making the picks.
At the very least, Twins fans can take comfort in knowing that their team got the guy pretty much everyone else would’ve taken if they were in that spot. If Buxton fails, he’ll pretty much be the one to blame for the wasted pick, not the Twins.
Anyway, here are a couple clips of Buxton in action. Good frame but kind of a long swing. Lightning arm. He reminds me a lot of Alfonso Soriano, but it sounds like he has more speed and less power. Better fielder. We’ll see. My guess is he’s going to take at least five years to get to Target Field.
Either way, there are 50 rounds of picks, and the success of guys like Morneau and Kubel, not to mention Carl Pavano (13th round), Albert Pujols (13th round), Mark Buehrle (38th round), Orlando Hudson (43rd round) and others, proves that teams can still have a great draft if their No. 1 selection doesn’t pan out. Hopefully a handful of the few dozen players the Twins take in the remainder of the draft pan out.