MIAMI – After dominating the Midwest League, outfielder Byron Buxton was promoted to Class A Fort Myers by the Twins. Buxton is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday when the Miracle plays at Palm Beach.
Buxton, 19, has cemented his status as one of the top prospects in baseball. It seems much longer, but it was only a year ago when Buxton went 1-for-27 to start his professional career after being the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
He batted .216 in 27 games for the Gulf Coast League Twins last year with four home runs and four stolen bases. He moved on to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League, where he batted .286 with one homer and seven stolen bases in 21 games.
He still was named the top prospect in the GCL, but it wasn’t until this season that he put his skills into play in a big way, batting .341 at Class A Cedar Rapids in 68 games with eight home runs, 55 RBI, 68 runs and 32 bases.
“You never know how fast it is going to come,” said Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor leagues. “With him, it shows what kind of athletic ability he has and also how hard he worked and how coachable he is. You can tell him something one time and he can incorporate it in what he does.”
Buxton is considered the best player to play in Cedar Rapids since the Angels’ Mike Trout. In 2010, when Cedar Rapids was an Angels affiliate, Trout batted .362 with six homers, 39 RBI and 45 stolen bases in 81 games before being promoted.
Steil had seen both players at Cedar Rapids.
“They are different,” he said. “Both have off-the-charts athleticism but a different style of play. Both have outstanding tools, with the power-speed combo.”
About the offense
Before going homerless Sunday at Cleveland — Oswaldo Arcia’s double in the ninth inning was a few feet short — the Twins had hit 14 homers over their previous seven games. They averaged 5.4 runs in those games.
If the Twins offense is going to reach any level of consistency, it will be tied to driving the ball more.
The Twins entered Monday 26th in the major leagues in stolen bases — because they don’t have much speed. They were 22nd in sacrifice bunts — so they are limited manufacturing runs.
Manager Ron Gardenhire would bunt and hit and run more if he had the personnel to do it. In many cases, the Twins don’t send a runner from first base on a 3-2 count with fewer than two out because “there’s really not much of an edge there anymore,” Gardenhire said.
The Twins were ranked 18th in extra-base hits, and the best way for them to sustain offense is going to be by filling up that category.
“We don’t have a lot of speed,” Gardenhire said. “We’re not a team that can run all over the place. We’re not a team that will hit and run a lot. We don’t really have a lot of bat control guys in the lineup, maybe at the top and the bottom. So we have to rely on balls flying out there, deep off the wall or over the wall. That’s what we look for, because we are not a big speed team.”
• Gardenhire wasn’t pleased when Arcia didn’t run hard in the ninth inning on his deep fly to left-center. When the ball hit high off the wall, Arcia suddenly kicked it into gear and chugged into second.
“All he has to do is run when he hits it and we will all be fine,” Gardenhire said. But the manager likes everything else about the rookie outfielder. “He’s swinging good, and he’s fun to watch and fun in the dugout,” Gardenhire said.
• Righthander Nick Blackburn pitched a simulated game Monday, giving up one run over two innings on four hits and a walk. Blackburn is in Fort Myers, Fla., on the rehab trail following wrist surgery in January. He hopes to pitch in a game for the Gulf Coast League Twins sometime in the next week.