LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA – Twins prospect Byron Buxton took a break from planning for a dominant 2014 season Thursday to be recognized for his fantastic 2013 season.
Buxton drove from his home in Baxley, Ga., to accept the Baseball America Player of the Year Award, considered the most prestigious award a prospect can win. The 2012 winner was Wil Myers, who went on to win AL Rookie of the Year honors last season with Tampa Bay.
As Twins General Manager Terry Ryan and key members of his staff and a packed room at the annual winter meetings banquet looked on, Buxton strode to the stage in a new suit, accepted the award and calmly said, “I want to thank Baseball America and the Minnesota Twins for allowing me to win this award,” then took his seat.
Buxton was extremely shy at the beginning of last season but became more comfortable with himself and being around people as the year went on. But he said Thursday he never had spoken to a crowd larger than a high school class. Thursday’s banquet attracted around 300 people.
“I think this is a cap to his season,” Ryan said. “He had a very good season. For a young man he had a lot of attention and he handled it well. Now here’s the culmination and then we are going to move on to 2014.”
Buxton, between stops at Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Fort Myers, batted .334 with 12 home runs and 77 RBI. He stole 55 bases and had a on-base percentage of .424. He went on to play in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .212 in 12 games and was slowed because of a shoulder injury.
Buxton said his shoulder is fine. And Ryan will be happy to know that Buxton is moving on to 2014.
“I run every morning at 6 [a.m.],” Buxton said, “come back, eat breakfast and wait for my Dad to get up. Then we go to the cages and hit fly balls and stuff.”
Buxton’s goal: across-the-board improvement. He said he’s lowered his time in the 40-yard dash from 4.43 seconds last year to 4.37 this year.
Rule 5 minor leaguers
The Twins, with a full 40-man roster, did not select a player during the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft Thursday, but they selected pitchers in the minor league phase.
Righthander Kevin Thomas was selected from the Memphis roster of the Cardinals organization. Thomas, a reliever last season, was 6-5, 3.00 in 50 games between Class AA Springfield and Class AAA Memphis (only four games there). He struck out 80 in 63 innings.
Vern Followell, the Twins director of pro scouting, said Thomas, 27, throws up to 95 miles per hour and has added a slider, so they decided to take a chance on him.
The Twins also selected lefthander James Fuller from Class AA Binghamton of the Mets organization. Fuller, 26, was 1-0, 0.84 in 16 games at Class A St. Lucie and 3-2, 7.50 in nine games at Binghamton.
Twins lost righthander Jonathan Velasquez (Class AA New Britain) to the Mets and righthander Tim Atherton (New Britain) to Oakland in the minor league phase of the draft.