Draft : : Story
Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Draft Focus: Byron Buxton

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game
Every weekday leading up to the 2012 MLB Draft, Perfect Game will be providing a scouting profile on a notable draft-eligible prospect.  Stay tuned to Perfect Game and be sure to visit the Draft Page for all of the latest info and reports pertaining to the draft.

Byron Buxton Perfect Game profile

Position:  CF
Height:  6-2
Weight: 175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Birthdate:  December 12, 1993
High School:  Appling County
City, State:  Baxley, Ga.
Travel Team:  Round Trip Baseball
Commitment:  Georgia
Projected Draft Round:  1

In the bygone days prospects like Buxton might have been overlooked, but that is nearly impossible in this day and age. Even so, Buxton wasn’t on anyone’s radar except some local scouts and the University of Georgia (where he committed early) at the beginning of last summer. He had participated in the 2009 WWBA 16U National Championship and 2010 WWBA 18U National Championship for Round Trip Baseball, but had not gained much scouting notice. That changed in 2011 at the WWBA 18Us when he led Round Trip deep into the playoffs with a combination of his bat, his running speed and his 94 mph fastball off the mound.

Some have compared Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton to Kansas City Royals 2011 first round pick Bubba Starling, which works on some levels athletically (and may be prophetic if Buxton gets picked fifth in 2012 draft, Starling’s spot in 2011), but is more based on their respective upbringings. Starling grew up in tiny Gardner, Kansas (pop. 9,300) southwest of Kansas City, while Buxton’s hometown is the even harder to find on a map Baxley, Georgia (pop. 4,100).

Buxton followed that up with an eye opening performance at the East Coast Professional Showcase in early August in Lakeland, Florida that convinced the scouting community they had a future first round pick. In an event that included such talented prospects as SS Carlos Correa, OF David Dahl and RHP Lance McCullers, Buxton clearly stood out as the top prospect and I wrote that in my
top prospect list from the event. 

Before breaking down his tools, I should say that Buxton’s Major League comp for me is former Cincinnati Reds All-Star CF Eric Davis, one of my favorite players in the mid-80s. For those of you fortunate enough to have seen Davis in his prime (1984-1990) before his body started breaking down, think about that when considering Buxton’s overall package.

Buxton is a true five-tool player by the standards that make that level of prospect rare. His true '80' tool on the professional scale is his running speed. His 60 time from the ECP was “only” 6.57, but 60 times from that showcase are notoriously slow. What was more telling was what he did in games, when it counts. Facing a pitcher throwing in the mid-90s (I think it might have been Lance McCullers), Buxton hit a two-hopper to third base and beat it out at 3.89 from the right side. A couple of pitches later he stole second base at 3.18 (a rarely quoted but well used scouting measurement on fast runners….3.18 is phenomenal). Both those times were on my watch and were consistent with the scouts around me, as we were all comparing in the “is that what I really saw” sort of way that scouts occasionally do.

The second most impressive part of Buxton’s game is his power potential. Scouts at the WWBA events in July saw a loose swing and raw bat speed but a somewhat tentative approach in facing good pitching. Buxton had made the adjustment two weeks later, showing a very aggressive swing with plus bat speed and a whippy barrel that resulted in some serious pull power.

The third strong plus tool is obviously Buxton’s arm strength. He has some work to do with his outfield fundamentals, but throwing 94 mph off the mound pretty much speaks for what you want to know about his raw arm strength. There are some scouts who saw Buxton pitch in Marietta at the WWBA 18U who have wondered out loud what kind of pitching prospect Buxton could become if he concentrated on just that part of the game.

The fielding and hitting tools will be better judged over time, but with Buxton’s proven speed, arm strength, bat speed and athleticism, it would be difficult not to project them to the Major League average to plus level.

Notably, Buxton has also stood out in that “sixth” tool area; make up. He was clearly the leader of the Round Trip team this summer and carried his team not only with his two-way talent, but with his hustle and intangibles as well. He showed the same type of hustle and effort in the showcase environment, which is not always an easy thing to do.

While Buxton’s athletic tools make him a definite candidate to be a top 5-10 pick in the draft, there will be plenty of scout chatter in the spring about the risk of picking a unproven high school bat that high, as Buxton’s track record is relatively short compared to his 2012 draft peers and he won’t be facing much high level pitching in the spring. Still, this kind of tool set rarely comes along and the scouting community realizes that and will react accordingly.

Perfect Game events attended:

    2009 WWBA 2011 Grads or 16u National Championship
    2010 WWBA 2010 Grads or 18u National Championship
    2011 WWBA 2011 Grads or 18u National Championship
    2011 WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship

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