With the Major League Baseball draft just around the corner, it is time to talk about the first name(s) that will fly off of the board. In case you are unaware, the Houston Astros “earned” the top selection and are faced with what some may call a dilemma: prep outfielder Byron Buxton or Stanford right-hander Mark Appel? This decision may not be a runaway slam dunk, but it’s not like the choice is between Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. If I were the Houston Astros, I know whose name I would call this June: Byron Buxton.
This is nothing against Appel. He seems like a fine starting pitching prospect. Give me the electric position player though. Not only does Byron Buxton possess all five tools (hitting, power, speed, defense, arm strength), but at 6’1″ 175, he’s a premium athlete with room to fill out and perhaps the ability to stick in centerfield as he matures physically and works his way to The Show.
What do you think of guys like Matt Kemp, B.J. Upton, Andrew McCutchen and Justin Upton? Well, those are the types of comparisons that Byron Buxton is garnering right now. Of course you’ve got the industry habit of comparing prospects to players of the same ethnicity, but who is going to complain about being mentioned in the same breath as that quartet? I realize comparisons placed upon players yet to step on a field against professional competition should be taken with a grain of salt, but the fact remains that such high praise is reserved for the elite of the elite.
As expected, Buxton is vaporizing high school competition. One stat stands out to me though: two home runs. This does not raise a red flag in my eyes, but instead says a lot about his approach and his discipline. Buxton knows that scouts are on him, he knows he is going to be drafted in the first round and you know he wants to put on a show to cement his status as top prospect in the class. Despite the pressure and expectations, however, he remains true to his game. This reminds me of something I read in the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook regarding Jason Heyward (way to feed that industry habit, Craig):
The main reason Heyward remained on the draft board so long in 2007 centered on the limited number times he swung the bat as a high school senior. Opponents rarely pitched to him and he refused to compromise his impressive command of the strike zone.
I would bet a lot of money that Byron Buxton is off of the board by the time the No. 3 pick is on the clock – with or without gaudy home run totals. And if I were emotionally invested into the Houston Astros, I would beat the “draft Byron Buxton No. 1” drum as loud as I could for the next few weeks.
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