With the No. 2 pick in the MLB Draft, the Twins took Byron Buxton, a five-tool outfielder.
By TYLER MASONFS North
MINNEAPOLIS — Even when a curveball was thrown their way, the Minnesota Twins still landed the player they wanted in Monday's draft.
The Twins took five-tool high school outfielder Byron Buxton with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft Monday, one pick after the Houston Astros took Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa first overall. Many assumed Houston would take either Buxton or Stanford pitcher Mark Appel.
The Astros took neither, opting instead for Correa and leaving the Twins to choose between Buxton and Appel. Minnesota said it wasn't a tough choice at all.
"One of them had to be there," Twins director of scouting Deron Johnson said. "We had the No. 2 pick. We all thought with Appel being from Houston, born and raised in Houston and moving to Northern California for junior high school that there was probably a good chance of that happening. But being involved in the draft for this long, funny things happen."
"It's one of the best feelings I've had,” Buxton said in a conference call. “I'm just blessed that the Minnesota Twins drafted me. I'm just ready to play and have fun."
Buxton, 18, played his high school baseball at Appling County High School in Georgia. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound outfielder batted .513 with 17 doubles, three homers and 35 RBI during his senior season. The speedy Buxton also stole 38 bases and was named First Team Rawlings Preseason All-American.
As a pitcher, Buxton was 10-1 with 154 strikeouts in 81 innings and struck out 18 batters in seven innings during a game of the Georgia 2A state championship series. Johnson said Buxton reached the mid-90s on the radar gun.
Some felt the Twins should have gone with a pitcher with their first pick, as the major league roster — and minor leagues — is thin when it comes to pitching. The organization seems to be well-set in the outfield, with the likes of Denard Span, Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks, among others.
But it was clear that Buxton was the top player on the Twins' draft board, regardless of the position he plays.
"We targeted Byron since last summer," Johnson said. "He's a five-tool player. Tremendous ceiling. He's a really good kid. Hard worker. Two-sport athlete. Everybody talks about his athleticism. He's got a really good swing. We think he's going to hit. We think he'll hit anywhere from No. 1 in the order to No. 3. Tremendous, tremendous upside."
Before the draft, there were rumblings that Buxton could be the top-overall pick. Soon, those talks turned, and most mock drafts had Appel going No. 1 to Houston. But Buxton said he stayed grounded during that time, not focusing too much on the predictions of others.
"It was cool to hear, but you never know until they really say your name on the TV," he said. "I just waited for my name to be called."
While starring on the baseball diamond, Buxton was also gifted on the football field. An all-state defensive back and wide receiver, he also earned All-Region honors as a quarterback during his junior season.
"We consider, in this organization, makeup being the sixth tool. He's a severely competitive kid," Johnson said. "He's a really good football player. He got a scholarship offer to Georgia to be a wideout in the SEC. That tells you not only his athletic ability, but his competitiveness and toughness, as well."
Johnson was glowing Monday when talking about Buxton's speed, mentioning that the outfielder ran a 6.4-second 60-yard dash. Johnson also told a story of a game the Twins scouted when Buxton scored from second base on a sacrifice fly to right field.
"I had never seen that before," Johnson said. "The right fielder was shocked and he just kind of panicked and threw the ball into second and (Buxton) just kept going. He has game-changing speed."
Despite growing up in Georgia, Buxton said he's not an Atlanta Braves fan. He used to root for Tampa Bay outfielder B.J. Upton until Upton's brother, Justin, broke into the majors with Arizona.
"I'm a Twins fan now," Buxton said.
Buxton was the Twins' highest pick since they took St. Paul's Joe Mauer with the No. 1 overall pick in 2001. He's also the first high school player Minnesota has drafted since they took Hicks with the 14th pick of the 2008 draft.
On Monday, Johnson said area scout Jack Powell, who first scouted Buxton last summer, compared Buxton to Hicks.
"He called him the next Aaron Hicks," Johnson said. "I think he'll be better than Aaron Hicks, eventually. It'd be nice to have both of them in the outfield here at some point in their careers."
Appel, a client of uber-agent Scott Boras, fell all the way to Pittsburgh at No. 8 in the draft, likely for issues of being too costly to sign to a deal. Johnson said he doesn't expect to have any issues signing Buxton, however, before the July 13 deadline.
"This kid wants to play. He's a baseball player," Johnson said. "He's ready to get his career started."