It was an exciting day for the Minnesota Twins’, as well as Baseball America’s, top prospect Byron Buxton on Sunday afternoon as he—along with future teammate Miguel Sano—got to experience one of the distinguished honors for a minor league baseball player: playing in the Futures Game. There was plenty of hype surrounding Buxton heading into the game as many fans and analysts were looking forward to—what may have been—their first time seeing Buxton play. Unfortunately for Buxton, he didn’t quite perform up to all of the hype during his first national appearance; but in the end, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s say that Buxton came up in the game and hit two homeruns in both of his at-bats. Had that happened, Buxton’s legend and hype would have grown immensely and the pressure would have continued to grow for the Twins to continue to rush Buxton through their minor league system. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are looking at it from a fan’s perspective, it certainly wouldn’t be in Buxton’s best interest long-term for him to be sped through the minors. Had the Twins reacted irrationally, Buxton would have missed valuable learning opportunities and the hype may have started to weigh on him more than it already may. Now, there is no guaranteeing that the Twins would have made such a reactionary move, but the pressure on them to make such a move would certainly have continued to grow.
By all indications, Buxton is a hard-working and grounded kid and the hype and adjustment period that he has had to face moving through the minor leagues has not been too much for him; but that certainly could change. Instead of building up Buxton’s hype higher than it already is, what Sunday really showed fans and analysts was that Buxton is still young and is right on track. Nobody expected Buxton to be in the majors or even the high minor leagues only after a year in professional baseball; but after his strong start to 2013, some started to wonder if Buxton should be promoted to the upper minors or even the majors sooner rather than later. Buxton hasn’t lit high Class-A on fire, as of yet, and he is still adjusting to a different competition level that I’m confident he will acclimate to very soon. In addition, by striking out twice, Buxton showed that there are still some things that he needs to work on before he can dominate some of the best young competition that the game has to offer.
Make no mistake about it, Buxton’s future is still extremely bright and he is certainly the number one prospect in all of baseball for a reason; but that is for the future, not the present. Buxton’s value for the Twins is in the future; whether that future is in one year, two years or longer is irrelevant. The bottom line is this: Buxton is a very valuable piece to the Twins’ future. His struggles in the Futures Game shouldn’t cause doubt that this kid isn’t a future superstar because he still has all the tools to develop into a very successful player. Instead, what the game did demonstrate was that Buxton is human and that he belongs among the top prospects in the game based off the calm demeanor, plate discipline/approach and raw skills that he put on display despite his disappointing performance at the plate.
While there may have not been as strong of a reaction to Buxton’s 0-2 performance as I, or anyone else, may have thought, it certainly never hurts to reiterate that Buxton is bound to face some adversity along his way to the majors. The thing to keep in mind is that despite his strong season, Buxton still needs time to develop and should not be rushed along through the minors.
Just like the Futures Game title indicates, the game is geared for the future; Buxton’s future is certainly shining bright and a simple 0-2 performance on a national stage will not change that.