With one of the strongest farm systems in Major League Baseball, the Minnesota Twins have no shortage of talent brewing in their system.
One of the most notable and anticipated players down the pipeline is Byron Buxton, an outfielder with the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels. The second overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Appling County High School in Baxley, Ga., is batting .341 this season with 41 RBIs. As a testament to his ability, Buxton went 5-for-6 at the plate against the Quad Cities River Bandits on Wednesday, with a double and two triples.
"I think he's superseded expectations so far," scouting director Deron Johnson said. "We all obviously thought he'd be a great player, but he's really started off well. He's done a tremendous job. I think we're more impressed with the makeup more than anything. We all knew he had tools -- we all knew he could run, he could throw and he had power -- but just the way he goes about his business, with his maturity on the field and off the field.
"I think he's a man on a mission."
The outfielder -- who has spent the majority of the season in center -- also boasts a .992 fielding percentage. The highly touted 19-year-old is expected to arrive in the Majors in 2016. Currently, Buxton is considered as the Twins' No. 2 prospect and MLB's No. 18 prospect.
Another highly anticipated player is right-hander Kyle Gibson. The 2009 first-round Draft pick (No. 22 overall) is 5-5 this season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings after missing the majority of 2012 following Tommy John surgery. Through 12 starts and 72 2/3 innings pitched, Gibson had a 3.34 ERA and 63 strikeouts.
"We're looking for him to fill a role in the big league starting rotation at some point in time," Johnson said. "He's still trying to get his consistency back. … I think he's just getting back to pitching and getting a feel for his arm and his hand and all his pitches. We're looking for big things from Kyle here, hopefully sooner rather than later."
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound pitcher is lauded for an above-average fastball with sink, paired with an "outstanding" sinking changeup, according to MLB.com. Gibson is expected to reach the big leagues sometime this season and is currently listed as Minnesota's No. 4 prospect and No. 45 in MLB.
Where Buxton and Gibson are already highly regarded by fans, Miguel Sano is considered the Twins' No. 1 prospect and ranks No. 11 in the baseball. Signed in 2009, the third baseman currently plays with the Fort Myers Miracle in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. Sano is known for his power, and through 55 games this season, he batted .327 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs.
"I think he's going to get every opportunity to stay at third base, but you can't discount his bat," Johnson said. "He's got a middle-of-the-lineup bat. He's a cleanup-type hitter, and he's another kid that has grown mentally and socially, as well. … He's gone out and had a tremendous first half so far, which is something we're excited about."
The 20-year-old measures in at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. He's expected to reach the Majors by 2015 but first needs to work on his focus and his footwork.
While Sano tops their prospect list, the Twins have five pitchers in the top 10, including Gibson and Alex Meyer -- who is listed as their No. 3 prospect and No. 38 in MLB.
Meyer was drafted in 2011 in the first round, No. 23 overall, by Washington and was acquired by Minnesota in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Nationals last offseason. Meyer is currently with the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats, and through 11 starts, had a 3-3 record with a 3.69 ERA. Through 61 innings pitched, he had struck out 73 and walked 27.
Meyer has a strong sinking fastball that is complemented by a tough slider. Johnson noted his out-pitch curveball and changeup in addition to the fastball. There is some concern about his ability to maintain his delivery and stay in the strike zone -- something that will come with more time.
"He's different than what we have," Johnson said. "He's a power pitcher. … In college, his command and control wasn't always on point, but it seems like he's starting to string together a couple good starts this year. … We definitely think he has the potential to be a Major League starter, and with his stuff and pitches, he's got a chance to be an upper-rotation, front-line type of starter."
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less