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Twins' potential top pick touted as 'Baseball's LeBron or the new Babe'

The latest cover of Sports Illustrated features 17-year-old Hunter Greene as “Baseball’s LeBron or the new Babe.”

No pressure. That is Babe Ruth, the Great Bambino, and LeBron James, 13-time NBA All-Star and four-time league MVP, the magazine is comparing the teenager to.

If Greene really is that good, then the Twins should have their No. 1 pick for the June 12 MLB draft already locked in.

“He’s 17. He mashes. He throws 102. Hunter Greene is the star baseball needs,” the magazine headline continues. “First he has to finish high school.”

The 6-4, 210-pound star from Notre Dame High School of Sherman Oaks, Calif., is projected by many scouts to be one of the top two picks the upcoming draft. The Twins own the No. 1 pick after their franchise-worst 103-loss season.

If Greene is drafted No. 1 overall, he would be the first righthanded high school pitcher ever taken with the top pick. Also, his ability to hit and play short stop have been compared to Alex Rodriguez. So if he flops as a pitcher, the next A-Rod is a nice backup plan.

Sports Illustrated’ Lee Jenkins wrote, “[Greene] hits baseballs 450 feet, throws them 102 mph and gloves them just about anywhere left of second base. When he steps to the plate in batting practice, outfielders shout warnings to the soccer players working out on the adjacent football field, lest they take unexpected headers. At 17, Greene has sent balls out of Petco Park in San Diego and Wrigley Field in Chicago, which is not to imply that he simply deposited them over the fence with a souped-up metal bat. No, he put them out of the stadium completely, with nothing but muscle and wood.”

The feature documents Greene’s journey from child prodigy to establishing himself as the potential No. 1 overall pick and the game’s next superstar. Oh yeah, baseball is only one of many things Green is good at.

Here are some highlights from the story:

The Dodgers’ area scout met him during a pitching lesson when he was nine, deeming his throwing mechanics flawless. Radar guns clocked him at 93 mph when he was 14, the same year UCLA and USC offered him scholarships, well aware that he probably wouldn’t ever step on campus because his draft stock was already so high.

Greene does yoga with a private instructor three times a week. He dabbles in Korean. He wonders if he could ever play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his violin before taking the field. He listens to hip-hop, mainly Travis Scott, but he’s also kind of country: He owns a dozen Bass Pro Shop hats and casts into Castaic Lake. He spends free periods painting with Joseph Lee, his AP studio art teacher; bright colors and bold images are Greene’s trademarks. … He launched a sock drive this winter for the homeless in downtown Los Angeles, after reading an article about a shortage, then handed out 2,300 pairs on Skid Row. He has received four certificates of recognition from L.A.-area politicians for his community service efforts. He delivered his first speech promoting youth baseball when he was eight … .

“This is exactly the kind of kid we desperately need,” says one major league official.

That might be what the new Twins front office is saying after getting to know Greene.

This is not the first time Sports Illustrated has featured a high school star on its cover and only a handful have become superstars in their respective sport. Among those featured were former Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett, Milwaukee Bucks' rising star Jabari Parker, Washington Nationals' star outfielder Bryce Harper and James.

Read the full Sports Illustrated story to learn more about the teenager that could become the face of the Twins franchise for a long time to come.

Watch highlights of the high school star

Buxton gets special batting practice session with Torii Hunter

The Twins are doing everything they can to help Byron Buxton gain confidence in the batter’s box.

Manager Paul Molitor and hitting coach James Rowson held a special workout for Buxton Sunday morning at Target Field and even utilized a special guest.

Torii Hunter, wearing a suit, stepped into the batting cage and offered Buxton some advice that might change the direction of a disappointing start to the season. Fox Sports North cameras captured the exchange and used it as a talking point during the game broadcast that featured Hunter in the booth as an analyst.

“I was just trying to really just help him to just stick with a plan and have a plan,” Hunter said, “and do what he can to stay on that ball and let the ball get deep. He’s been trying to catch the ball out in front.”

Hunter is a special assistant in baseball operations, so this sort of involvement is expected, even when he's in a suit hours before calling a game with Dick Bremer. 

The video shows Hunter standing in the batter’s box with Buxton offering feedback and adjusting his stance. Watch:

Buxton entered Monday night’s series opener in Texas with a .109 batting average. He had 27 strikeouts and only six hits in 55 at-bats.

After sitting out of Sunday’s game following the special batting practice, Buxton showed signs of improvement Monday. He was hitless, but walked twice and scored a run. It was only the third game this season Buxton drew a walk and only the second time he scored a run. The ability to draw two walks hint Buxton is seeing the ball better as he tracks it through the zone.

Twins beat writer LaVelle E. Neal III highlighted Buxton’s improvement in his postgame blog Monday night. He noted Hunter was with the team in Texas and spent extra time on the field with Buxton.

Neal wrote that Monday night’s at-bats were something the Twins coaching staff hopes “Buxton can use to turn into momentum.”

More from Neal on Buxton’s promising night:

Byron Buxton flew out in his first at bat, but he worked the count to three balls and even hit a drive down the right field line that went foul. It was a sign that he was trying to stay back and use more of the field. Buxton ended up drawing two walks - and striking out once - on Monday. He's only had three multi-walk games in his career. "I've been working every day trying to let the ball travel more and then hit the other way," Buxton said. Buxton began the day batting .109. While I had heard no rumblings about him being sent down, there had to be concern about how he was handling it. The Twins are at one-step-at-a-time mode with him now. ... Torii Hunter was on the field with Buxton in the early afternoon, just trying to make him laugh and ease his mind. But he also wanted Buxton to understand that he has to trust the process, and start by letting the ball travel deeper over the plate before hitting it. "I thought even from his first at-bat and some of the work he's been putting in, he's had trouble translating some of his practice swings into the games," Molitor said, "but we saw a few tonight."

Buxton has experienced success when seeking out Hunter's advice. In a spring training feature by Fox Sports North, Buxton said he reached out to the Twins Hall of Famer last season and it appears he is hoping to benefit from that same wisdom once again to break out of this early season slump. 

Buxton's 0-for-2 effort Monday dropped his batting average to .105, the third-worst average in the league among players with at least 45 at-bats.