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June 4, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Poll the Industry: Sano vs. Buxton

by Jason Parks

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Debating the stature and status of prospects is my chosen field and, for many of us, our chosen passion. We compare and contrast at every developmental turn, putting our various forms of magnification to work with every box score, every scouting report, and every opportunity to get close to the action. Not only is the value of Player A as it relates to that of Player B a fascinating exercise for the novice and industry veteran alike, but the establishment of present and future value helps form the skeleton structure of this particular commodities market.

Last fall, the Baseball Prospectus prospect team engaged in our most fervent debate of the offseason, when Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton battled for prospect supremacy in a talent-rich Twins system. The brilliance of the debate was that a defendable case could be made for each, and at the time I teetered back and forth in my conclusions like a drunk walking the yellow stripe. Do you like the five-tool high school kid with up-the-middle skills and loudspeaker athleticism or one of the better power bats to come out of the Latin American market in recent memory, a potential middle-of-the-order power behemoth? Revisiting the debate is intoxicating and my equilibrium is once again on the tilt.

The 2013 season hasn’t made the debate any easier, as Buxton has exploded in his full-season debut and Sano is doing violent things to baseballs in the Florida State League. The preferred hypothetical when it comes to value assessment and debate is the “If you could only have one in your system, which one are you choosing and why?” At this point in the season, this is the best one-two prospect punch in the minors, with each moving up into the rarified air of the top 10 talents in the game. I decided to ask 20 industry sources—ranging from scouts on the ground to general managers—which member of the dynamic duo they would rather have in their own farm system. What was anticipated to be a tight race turned out to be a landslide. Buxton in a blowout.

Industry vote: 18-2 in favor of Buxton.

A few money quotes

I would take Buxton (as I told you last year).  He's about as close to Mike Trout as there is out there right now, a true five-tool CF with so many weapons and ways he can beat you.  I like Sano, and think he will have big power, but I wonder about the body and his future position.  Both are top-25 prospects, but you could make a case that Buxton is the best prospect in all of baseball.”

“I'd take Buxton.  Middle of the field player.....impact on both sides of the ball.  Will probably age better and have more longevity.  I think Sano will have more immediate wow factor and contribute faster, but Buxton would win the long-term race.  Hard to argue either way and I love the exercise, but I'm taking the athlete who contributes in every facet of the game.  It would put me in the fetal position to pass on Sano though.....”

Buxton; he’s a much safer bet to become an above average MLB player due to his well-rounded offensive skillset and likelihood that he’ll develop into a quality center fielder.”

“Sano’s raw power is tremendous and I like him a lot, but there’s a good chance you end up with a first baseman who hits .240 with 30+ HR annually. That kind of player is nice to have but not nearly as hard to find the Buxton-type player.”

Buxton. The athleticism and the power/speed combo. More ways to impact game and I eventually see Sano as corner OFer.”

“Buxton is the best player I have ever scouted in the minors..”

“Sano could change the fortunes of a team, Buxton could change the fortunes of the league. I think he could be that special. Potential to be the best player in the game. Elite.”

“I’d take Buxton, but its weird because I just got through telling a story about a Sano batting practice display that still sends chills up my spine. His power is special. I’d give my firstborn to get Sano into this org. I wonder what I would have to give up to get Buxton?”

“The game is changing, so Sano’s power could make him one of the biggest impact bats in the league. I’m talking 40 bombs at his peak. But Buxton is going to give you an up the middle presence with a loud package of tools that could make him the top player in the game. We have an internal comp to Mike Trout, but the tools might be even louder at full potential. He’s the top prospect in the game.”

“Buxton is showing more game development than I thought he would have at this stage of the game. The run is elite; the arm is very strong and should keep improving once he learns how to command it; the hit is easy plus for me and could be 70; the raw power could end up just as extreme as Sano. He doesn’t even know how to hit for power yet. But the explosion is there. He’s a power bat down the line. He will be able to do it all. With his range in center, the glove, the arm, the feel for baseball and the dual threat hit/power, he’s Eric Davis with a better bat. I love Sano, don’t get me wrong. But Buxton could be the real package. It would be great for the game if Buxton becomes Buxton.”

You are free to form your own conclusions, but the quotes speak for themselves, especially that last one. I keep reading it over and over, as the line, “It would be great for the game if Buxton becomes Buxton” really speaks to me. What a great line, and it would be great for the game if another Eric Davis showed up, or another Trout, or even the first Buxton. It’s a cyclical game, and as much we all love the long ball, even at the expense of contact or fundamental play, the return of five-tool talent is the wave of the future, an all-around game that is more skill than show. This isn’t a knock on Sano or any other prospect of extreme (if not one-sided) value in the minors. But I look forward to the new wave of well rounded toolsheds that come complete with baseball instincts and feel that could one day consume the major-league landscape, the Profars, the Taverases, the Yeliches, the Correas, and the future face of that movement, Byron Buxton.

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Minnesota Twins,  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues

40 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

cdgarosi

"The raw power could end up just as extreme as Sano." That hardly seems fair, no? Has the 'change' from a tight race been about Buxton's work this season or has industry always had this opinion?

Jun 04, 2013 03:34 AM
rating: 1
 
anderson721

Will heads roll in Houston for taking Carlos Correa, or is that still a defensible pick?

Jun 04, 2013 04:14 AM
rating: 0
 
okteds

If they had hired Goldstein a few months earlier they might've avoided the mistake:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17223

Jun 04, 2013 04:54 AM
rating: -3
 
sungods7n

That's a mock draft, Kevin had Buxton #3 on his board.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17173

Jun 04, 2013 06:12 AM
rating: 2
 
Behemoth

Probably not, though.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17173

Jun 04, 2013 06:18 AM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

Gah. My pony is slow.

Jun 04, 2013 06:19 AM
rating: 5
 
randolph3030

Correa has been very very good as well and don't forget that Correa signed for apprx 4.75 while Buxton signed for apprx $6+. That's the difference between the Stros signing Rio Ruiz and not due to the silly draft budget rules.

Jun 04, 2013 05:30 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Correa's legit. He was cheaper than Buxton (which helped save money for the Ruiz/McCullers signings), he's considerably younger, plays a premium position, and has impact potential at the highest level. That's a win.

But if Buxton becomes the best player in the game, the Astros will be reminded of it daily. Nature of the beast.

Jun 04, 2013 05:36 AM
 
randolph3030

As long as Correa becomes Hakeem Olajuwon, not many people get mad about Houston missing on Jordan.

If he becomes Sam Bowie...

Jun 04, 2013 05:40 AM
rating: 23
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Great way of putting it. Excellent.

Jun 04, 2013 05:44 AM
 
SC

I think there's less of a tendency to do that in baseball, where half of the #1 picks in the past decade have been busts (or Delmon Young, whatever you want to call that). There's a lot more understanding of the uncertainty built into the scouting and development sides.

I mean are people in Colorado and KC really talking every day about how Evan Longoria should be theirs rather than Hochevar or Greg Reynolds?

Sure, Captain Hindsight is a rank many seem to have attained, but I think many people understand that much higher levels of uncertainty involved in turning amateur baseball players into pros.

Jun 04, 2013 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
evo34

Is there any concern whatsoever about the legitimacy of Sano's age? Not that I have heard anything, but just asking if any teams feel that way. More generally, do some teams factor in an age "adjustment" if they suspect a player has a decent chance of using a fake age, or has this practice become so rare that it would be foolish to do so?

Jun 04, 2013 06:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Sano's age has been verified. Not an issue with him.

Jun 04, 2013 06:29 AM
 
evo34

Are there any top 100 prospects who are known to have possible age fraud issues? This kind of thing is never talked about publicly until a guy is caught. Wondering how widespread the issue is today and if any teams have inside info. (vs. the entire league sharing the suspicions about the same players).

Jun 14, 2013 05:08 AM
rating: 0
 
Klochner

Jason, do you have any guesses as to how different this would have been coming in to the year? Before Buxton slaughtered the MWL and still seemed to be considered pretty raw?

Jun 04, 2013 06:33 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

You never know until you know, but Buxton's profile is more attractive than Sano's so I can see the case for supremacy based on that alone. Coming into the season, I was torn between the two, as I mentioned above. When we started the Twins org debates, I would have been perfectly fine placing Sano above Buxton. I'm a sucker for power, and Sano has some of the best raw around. I'm also a sucker for tools. I guess I'm just a sucker.

Jun 04, 2013 06:58 AM
 
rhettdb2005

Great piece.

Jun 04, 2013 07:10 AM
rating: 2
 
AndrewBokermann

Buxton/Sano is easily the best 1-2 set of positional players a team has, but what teams/players would be next in line behind them?

Jun 04, 2013 07:35 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

On the positional side, the Cubs have Baez/Soler/Almora, which is a potent trio; Sox have Bogaerts and Cecchini.

Jun 04, 2013 07:42 AM
 
SC

Oscar Tavares and Kolten Wong probably in the discussion too.

Jun 04, 2013 13:40 PM
rating: -1
 
delatopia

Tavares and Wong, a top position player combo? Maybe in the same way that Cy Young and his sister lead all sibling pairs in victories, or at least they did until the Niekros came along.

Jun 04, 2013 22:34 PM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Almora/Baez, JBJ/Bogaerts, Clint Frazier/anyone.

Jun 04, 2013 07:49 AM
 
bobbygrace

The last scout/FOT quoted in this article puts a potential 70 on Byron Buxton's hit tool and says he might eventually have as much raw power as Miguel Sano, implying a potential 80. That takes my breath away as a Twins fan.

Mike Trout and Eric Davis are put forward as comparable players. Are they 70 hit / 80 raw players? Who or who else earned both labels? And, as a reality check, can you think of any players who got touted as having 70 hit / 80 raw tools and then flamed out or disappointed at the major league level?

Jun 04, 2013 07:50 AM
rating: 0
 
SC

Travis Snider probably didn't have 80 power (as really 80 power prospects shouldn't come along more than every couple years), but some had him at 70 hit 70 power. Jose Tabata and more recently (and too early to call him a bust) Jesus Montero.

Jun 04, 2013 10:16 AM
rating: 1
 
Calypso

What did the 2 who opted for Sano gave as their rationale?

Jun 04, 2013 07:54 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

The extreme power potential. Always a premium, especially given the dearth of extreme power bats in the minors.

Jun 04, 2013 07:57 AM
 
sportspopery

I've had the pleasure of seeing Buxton and Correa here in the Midwest League (including last night @ Beloit, I've now seen 26 innings of Quad Cities baseball), and can say that every unicorn and One True Ring analogy is apt for both of them. Everybody wins with those guys in the game.

Jason, that quote about .240 hitters with 30 HR guys being easier to find than a Buxton is right on, but that changes if it's .260 with 40 bombs, no? How many guys in the minors have that sort of promise? It's a different sort of unicorn, but it's still a unicorn.

Jun 04, 2013 08:02 AM
rating: 3
 
rrvwmr

I spoke w/ Buxton on Saturday and will have a few notes up at 80grade.com in the next day or two. His tools are beyond legit and he is showing a fair amount of growth in his approach.

Jun 04, 2013 08:44 AM
rating: 1
 
AciDjAzz

So do you think there's a chance Clint Frazier is the next 5 tool guy to come up? Do you think Houston would take him on a discount and go pitching later on?

Jun 04, 2013 08:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Frazier is a legit five tool guy, but is well behind Buxton in speed, potentially future defense, and there are at least some questions as to the health of his arm (he's been fighting tendonitis in his elbow since late last year). Buxton looks the part much moreso than does Frazier, but I've seen enough of the latter not to bet against him. Though he comes with a fair amount of risk, I wouldn't be shocked if he shoots through his projections.

I don't think Houston rolls the dice on him if they like Appel/Gray/Bryant. More safety with that trio and shouldn't be handing out more than around $6MM to any of them (leaving plenty to spread around elsewhere).

Jun 04, 2013 09:12 AM
 
randolph3030

What do you think of the Moran rumors for the Stros?

Jun 04, 2013 09:20 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

I don't see the need to get Moran -- he's not a 1-1 guy for me and you should be able to get at least one (in reality, should be each) of Gray/Appel/Frazier/Bryant for $6MM or less, which frees up an additional $1.7MM for later use.

There aren't tons of worthy candidates for significant over-allotment money, so unless you have a particular player in mind and that player is going to cost you north of $3MM, I'm not sure why you'd need more than that extra $1.7MM (plus around another 500K you could scrape together in later pick savings).

Finally, even if you do save the money with a particular player in mind, there are a handful of teams that could beat you to the punch in popping your target(s). That would leave you with a bunch of extra money and no great use for it.

All that said, Houston has a lot of really smart people breaking this stuff down, so I'd certainly give them the benefit of the doubt as you watch the draft unfold. They will have worked the angles, and then some, I'm sure.

Jun 04, 2013 09:58 AM
 
AciDjAzz

Ok thanks abunch for the info and reply, to be honest I think they need pitching more than anything, but I like Frazier a lot. Would be a good marketing piece too since he is so unique.

Jun 04, 2013 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
spundin

How soon do you see either making it to AA? Guessing both are candidates both for promotions after the All Star games for their levels? Then open both at AA to start next year? I;m in a keeper league where I could claim either now and have control for the next 4 years but would rather get them next year in anticipation they could maybe get a call next year if all goes right.

Jun 04, 2013 11:37 AM
rating: 0
 
BERSMR

I've seen some recent stats that would tend to show that Sano's defense is coming around at 3b. Anecdotally, after picking up 10 errors in a big hurry, it has been quite some time since I have noticed him getting one. He may not be middle of the field like Buxton, but if Sano can indeed be an average defensive major league 3b that would represent a lot of progress over what we were expecting from him defensively a year ago.

Jun 04, 2013 13:22 PM
rating: 1
 
cchatham

Every time I read about Sano my heart sinks a bit as I remember the Pirates were the front runners to sign him but let a couple hundred thousand dollars get in the way of getting it done. Of course, who knows if he would've developed the same way in the Pirates system.

Jun 04, 2013 14:37 PM
rating: 2
 
RedsManRick

I can't be the only one who read the descriptions and thought "huh, that sounds an awful lot like Harper (Sano) vs. Trout (Buxton) right off the bat.

Jun 04, 2013 14:52 PM
rating: 3
 
mmg3327

Fantasy question: if you could have only one of Buxton, Correa, or Baez in your system, which would you choose?

Jun 04, 2013 18:48 PM
rating: 0
 
jfranco77

If it was me I would take Buxton. The speed is legit. Even if he somehow ends up a 5 hit/5 power guy, it might come with 40 steals. And I'd take Baez over Correa by a decent margin.

Jun 05, 2013 10:51 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Mike Trout... heck even an Eric Davis type talent only happens every 10 years or so. Is thinking that Buxton is the same as Trout really that fair considering almost no one has done what Trout has?

Jun 04, 2013 22:41 PM
rating: -1
 
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