In what may have been somewhat of a surprise, Minnesota Twins’ outfielder Byron Buxton was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Month in April. In addition to Buxton being named the top player of the month, the Twins also named D.J. Baxendale their top pitching prospect of the month of April. Baxendale, who pitches for high Class-A Fort Myers, has been off to a great start in 2013 and is currently sporting a 4-0 record with a 1.84 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched. Baxendale was a 2012, 10th round draft pick of the Twins from the University of Arkansas and made 17 appearances last season between Rookie and low Class-A ball.
Buxton, on the other hand, was the Twins’ first round draft pick—second overall—and is currently playing at Class-A Cedar Rapids. Heading into 2013, Buxton was named the number 10 overall prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America and has done nothing to disprove that he belongs among the top prospects in all of baseball. So far in 2013, Buxton is off to a torrid start in Cedar Rapids as he currently is hitting .382 with five HR, 23 RBI, 11 stolen bases, an astounding 22 walks, 19 strikeouts, 29 runs and 34 hits in just 114 plate appearances.
What is interesting is that despite those statistics, there was actually a debate as to whether or not Buxton deserved—yes, I will say that again, deserved—to win the minor league player of the month award. There were some people who believed that mega-prospect Miguel Sano was more deserving of the award, which you could make an argument that both could have won the award.
Rated as the number nine prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, Sano is currently hitting .363 with nine HR, 25 RBI, 12 walks, 31 strikeouts, two stolen bases, 23 runs and 37 hits in just 116 plate appearances. Sano, who plays third base, is more of a power hitter and his strikeout numbers will tend to be higher over the course of his career compared to Buxton, however it is clear that the Twins are very fortunate to have two of the best prospects in all of baseball in their minor league system.
Sano is currently at high Class-A Fort Myers and has been projected, by some analysts, as a late to mid-season call-up for the Twins in 2014. Buxton has been projected anywhere from a late 2014 call-up to an early 2015 call-up; but the question I pose is this: if the two prospects keep dominating at the rate and levels they are at, how long can the Twins hold them back? It would not surprise me to see Sano reach Double-A this season with the possibility of him getting a legitimate shot at making the big-league club by early to mid-2014. In Buxton’s case, I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves up to high Class-A by season’s end and starts next season at Double-A.
No matter what way you look at it, the situation as to how to properly handle these two prospects is going to be heavily debated by different people. Each person will have their opinion of how to handle them and each argument will have some merit. My opinion is to let these guys work their way up the organizational ladder and take their time. If they show they can dominate at Double-A, then we can begin the conversation as to whether or not they are ready for a big-league look. I would also like to see each of them spend a little time in Triple-A, but I understand that that option may not be in the cards.
Whatever the case, the predicament the Twins are in with how to handle these two mega-prospects is a good problem to have. It shows the Twins are once again on the rise as an organization and soon enough, we will be having Joe Mauer like prospects joining Mauer himself as the Twins make another charge for division titles.