Who's No. 1? Buxton brings five tools to Draft
There are a few things you need to know about Byron Buxton.
The first, of course, is that he can flat-out play baseball, with a full toolbox that has him sitting atop many Draft boards.
The second is he is a quiet, unassuming, respectful young man from rural Georgia, the kind of kid who answers nearly every question with "Yes, sir" or "No, sir."
And finally, while his given name is Byron, don't expect him to answer to it. No one -- not even his family -- calls him that.
"My parents call me Buck, too," Buxton said.
There are going to be a lot of people calling him Buck in the very near future. The Georgia high school outfielder is considered by many to be the most-talented player in the 2012 Draft class. He is, as a result, being mentioned as a potential No. 1 overall pick, and one who almost certainly won't make it past the top five.
The annual First-Year Player Draft takes place this year from June 4-6, beginning with the first round and Comp Round A on Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m. ET. The first night of the event will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com on June 5-6.
MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list, Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player, and Draft Caster. You can also keep up to date and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
"This kid has all the tools at the high end of the scale," said a scout who's seen Buxton play numerous times. "You can put whatever you want on his tool set.
"If he would enter the Draft as a pitcher only, he would be one of the top high school arms in the country. How many kids can you say that about?"
Buxton hasn't always lived in this stratosphere. He's always been a good player, one who played summer ball in Georgia with players older than him. But it was last summer that he really came into his own.
Braxton Jeffers first saw Buxton when the outfielder was 15 years old at a camp at a small college. Clocked at 88 miles per hour with his arm from the outfield and running a 6.6-second 60-yard dash, Jeffers knew Buxton had some raw tools. So the scout invited Buxton to play for his Round Trip Baseball summer team. Buxton always held his own, and then a different Buck showed up in 2011.
"He'd always been a really good player, fit in with the older kids and he competed," Jeffers said. "But last summer, his ability to play the game got so much better. He runs the bases with the ball in front of him like nobody I've ever seen. He's developed that sixth sense. He's grown into his athleticism.
"Last year, we knew it was really good, but nobody had any idea he was this good until last summer, when we started playing higher-level teams and it didn't affect him."
Buxton's coming-out party may have been at the East Coast Pro Showcase, run annually in early August by MLB scouts. By most accounts, Buxton was the best player at the event, going from "a guy" to perhaps "the guy." He hasn't let up since.
"Before he went to East Coast, we talked about it on the way down there," Jeffers said. "I said, 'Buck, be as good as you can be. This is a showcase. Get the bat head out front and smoke some balls.' He went down there and he focused on that, really squared some balls up."
Talking about Buxton's tools only explains a small part of who he is. Those who have gotten to know him light up even more when talking about what kind of person Buxton is.
Much of that, it's clear, comes from his parents. His father, Felton, drives a big rig. For as long as Buck can remember, his dad would get up at 1 a.m. to run all of his routes in order to be home in time to be around for his kids' after-school activities. It's clearly rubbed off. Everyone, it seems, has a story about a selfless team-first kid who doesn't come across like one of the most talented amateur baseball players in the country.
There's the story of a summer game last year, a tight contest. The hitter in front of Buxton reached base. Jeffers, knowing there were many scouts in attendance, didn't put on the bunt sign. Buxton bunted on his own, eventually moving the runner over with a two-strike sacrifice.
"I wouldn't have asked him to do that with all those [scouts] there to see him," Jeffers said. "He knew it was the right thing to do. That's what would've been expected of anyone else on the team, so that's what he did."
"I was just trying to help my team," Buxton explained succinctly. "That's what I'm supposed to do. I put my team before I put myself."
Another Buxton anecdote: His team gets off the bus and his coach has to carry a defibrillator to the field. After the first game of this tournament, Buxton tells the coach he'll take it. The coach tells him that's not necessary, but Buxton, already the star on the team, insists, and he carries the medical equipment for the remainder of the tournament.
"That is character," the scout said, "and a testament to who the kid is and the values that exist within the home. He has always played the game like a blue-collar player. He plays hard, and his love for his team and teammates, his willingness to do whatever is asked of him to help them win [comes out]."
By all accounts, Buxton has handled the pressures of being a top prospect calmly and quietly. Jeffers makes it clear that Buxton's unassuming nature -- "I never thought I'd be a top prospect in the nation or one of the top picks," Buxton said -- shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of passion for the game.
That passion, along with his great makeup, make what is about to happen an all-around feel-good story.
"There's a lot of deserving people in this world, but nobody deserves this more than them," Jeffers said.