New Britain may still be a plane ride away from Minnesota, but it’s a step closer than Fort Myers, Florida, and now Byron Buxton is one step closer to the majors.
The Twins have promoted the 20 year old center-fielder, considered by Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, to be the game’s top prospect, to Double-A New Britain, where will he will start tonight as the Rock Cats host Bowie.
It will be a debut four months and a half months in waiting. After posting a .944 OPS with 12 home runs and 55 stolen bases between High-A Fort Myers and Class-A Cedar Rapids in 2013, Buxton was expected to start this season in New Britain. Instead, he hurt his wrist diving for a ball in center during spring training and missed the first month of the season, When he came off the disabled list in May, the Twins sent him to Fort Myers to get back into a rhythm. He soon re-injured the wrist, though, and didn’t make a full comeback until July 6th.
Stats for the former second overall pick haven’t been spectacular since – .257/.342/.416 line over 25 games – but Buxton already tore apart the Florida State League as a 19 year old in 2013. In his last game for Fort Myers, a rain shortened, monday night loss to Palm Beach, he homered and drove in all three of his team’s runs.
With the call-up, Buxton, who doesn’t turn 21 until December, becomes the fourth youngest in the Eastern League.
Scouting reports for the young hitter are almost universally positive on both sides of the ball. On the 20-80 scouting scale, ESPN.com’s Keith Law grades him out as an 80 runner and an 80 fielder in center. He is the only player in the minor leagues to earn a 70 for the hit tool (batting average) from MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, and most scouts, including Baseball America’s, expect him to develop major power as he fills out in the coming years.
The Rock Cats have 21 games left in the season, meaning Buxton will only rack up 80 or so at-bats. The Twins are generally conservative in promoting prospects, and they will undoubtedly send him back to Double-A to start the 2015 season. A strong and healthy performance through April and May, though, could quickly put him in the conversation for a mid or late season visit to Target field.
Minnesota also announced a pair of other minor league transactions over the last two days.
Right-hander Nick Burdi, the Twins’ second round pick from this year’s draft, was promoted to Fort Myers. The 21 year old posted a 4.16 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 4 saves over 13 innings for Cedar Rapids. Bryan Hair, 24 and a former 34th round pick, will follow him there. The third baseman hit .267 with 14 home runs for Cedar Rapids.
Second baseman Levi Michael, 23, will join Buxton in New Britain. After two years of struggles, the 2011 first rounder finally found success this season, hitting .305 with a .375 on base percentage with Fort Myers.
And going in the opposite direction is reliever Brian Gilbert, who has been demoted from Fort Myers to Cedar Rapids thanks to the 21 year old’s 4.93 ERA and 4.7 BB/9.