Byron Buxton: Will UGA signee be picked No. 1 overall in MLB Draft?

Byron Buxton is considered to be just another country boy around the South Georgia town of Baxley. He owns a four-wheel drive pickup truck, likes to go mud bogging, and enjoys fishing and playing video games with his friends.

He’s also a candidate to be the first player selected at 7 p.m. Monday in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.

UGA signee Byron "Buck" Buxton of Appling County High School (AP)

UGA signee Byron "Buck" Buxton of Appling County High School (AP)

“I guess we knew he had a chance to go high when we had an intra-squad scrimmage at the beginning of the season, and 35 to 50 scouts showed up to watch,” Appling County coach Jeremy Smith said.

“Afterwards, a lot of teams came up to me and said ‘We appreciate you doing this for us, but we won’t be back. It’s because we don’t have a chance of getting him.’”

The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder is the biggest thing out of Baxley since Dexter Carter, the former Florida State football star who later won a Super Bowl with the 49ers.

Buxton also starred in football for Appling County, scoring 16 touchdowns as an all-state wide receiver this past fall. But his future lies in baseball.

  • Five-tool player

Scouts have anointed him with the rare five-tool status, meaning he scores the highest grades in speed (38 stolen bases in 39 attempts and reportedly matched Bo Jackson’s clocked times from the batter’s box to first base), power (nearly hit a ball out of Chicago’s Wrigley Field in a home-run derby), arm strength (clocked at 99 mph while pitching, but he prefers to play outfield), hitting for average (over .500 as a senior) and fielding.

What are Buxton's chances of playing at UGA?

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“He’s a pretty exceptional player when you consider he brings every tool to the table that we look for,” said one American League scout, who could not be identified because of team rules against commenting on undrafted players. “He kind of combines the electricity of B.J. Upton with the grace of an Andruw Jones, just given the fact that he can go out any single night and affect the game in a different way — with his running ability, hitting, defense and eventually power.

“It’s an intriguing package, and one just in terms of pure raw tools and physicality that we don’t run across with much regularity in scouting. He’s definitely a once-in-a-decade type of talent.”

However, it’s not a sure thing that the Astros, who hold the No. 1 pick and met with Buxton’s family last week in Baxley, will select the Georgia product. There’s pressure on the Astros to pick a more major league-ready player, such as Stanford pitcher Mark Appel.

Buxton, who is nicknamed “Buck,” comes from a middle-class family.

His father drives a truck for a living, while his mother works in the student cafeteria of the local middle school.

Appling County athletic director J.T. Pollock knew that Buxton was special when he saw him as an eighth grader.

“It was just the way he moved. He was a tall and thin kid, but the ball just jumped off his bat. His throwing motion was fluid. Everything he did was fluid. Things just come very easily to him.”

Blessed Trinity baseball coach Andy Harlin was sold on Buxton after he nearly single-handedly knocked Harlin’s team out of this year’s state playoffs a few weeks ago. Buxton scored the winning run in one game after reaching base on a softly hit ball that was fielded nearly perfectly by the pitcher.

“He’s the real deal; he’s as good as advertised,” Harlin said. “The guy throws regularly in the mid-90s. His speed jumps out at you. If he hits a regular ground ball, you’ve got to catch it cleanly and get rid of it because he can get down the line. On defense, he covers the gaps very well and has a big arm. … He’s just a ridiculous athlete.”

“Byron Buxton is the biggest game-changing player that I have seen in Georgia since [Royals outfielder] Jeff Francoeur [of Parkview],” Tattnall County High School coach Josh Cole said in a news release after Buxton was named Gatorade’s Georgia Baseball Player of the Year.

  • Georgia signee

Scouts began to look hard at Buxton at the end of his junior season at Appling County, located 200 miles southeast of Atlanta. Over the summer, he blossomed into a star prospect while playing for the Round Trip II club team.

By that time, Buxton was a sure first-rounder in baseball, but insisted on playing football as a senior. “He made it very clear his future plans were baseball. Football was for fun and to be part of the team,” Pollock said. “We sat down with his father to discuss the [injury] risks, and they were adamant about playing.

“I had nightmares about this kid getting hurt with his baseball possibilities. But it never happened, and he went after it hard.”

After signing a baseball scholarship with Georgia, Buxton helped lead Appling County to this year’s Class AA state championship.

He struck out 18 batters in the series-clinching victory Thursday.

As a pitcher, Buxton was 10-1 with five saves, a 1.90 ERA and 154 strikeouts. At the plate, Buxton posted a .513 average with 35 RBIs. He had only three home runs, but he was pitched around a lot.

Buxton often was asked for autographs after games.

“Buck is just very laid-back, and he doesn’t have to prove he’s better than everybody else by the way he walks around,” Pollock said. “He’s confident, but not arrogant. He’s very grounded, and just a good old country boy.”

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57 comments Add your comment

JB

June 3rd, 2012
8:59 pm

Wow. 1 st and maybe he could help the baseball team. If you hit it big in baseball, the money is BIGGGGGGGGGGGGGG

JB

June 3rd, 2012
9:01 pm

Also. Richt better save 5 or 6 spots. This team this year will create a lot of buzz and 2-3 of these very elite might flip back to Dawgs.

kingdaddy

June 3rd, 2012
9:06 pm

Hope he’s a Dawg…

Crimson Crush

June 3rd, 2012
9:08 pm

Bama backed off on Jameis Winston because they knew he was likely to go to baseball . The Astros will throw a lot of money on the table to make sure this kid does the same ( if he has any sense )

A person SMART enough to know......

June 3rd, 2012
9:10 pm

KingDaddy HOPE(like Obama) In one hand and Sh.t(like US Businesses) In the other and see which one fills up faster. LOL

chilidawg

June 3rd, 2012
9:18 pm

Sounds like he won”t be headed to Athens. Great story, I wish him a long and prosperous career in the majors.

Crimson Crush

June 3rd, 2012
9:19 pm

I don’t even see how hope enters this conversation .

George Stein

June 3rd, 2012
9:20 pm

The competition in south Georgia isn’t great, but his athleticism is. This is also why, in my opinion, McGarity made the proper decision not to let Pernod go – he is still signing good players. Perhaps too good.

nh gamecock

June 3rd, 2012
9:26 pm

We own the sec in baseball

nh gamecock

June 3rd, 2012
9:28 pm

a person smart enough…………. wow really?

Bright Idea

June 3rd, 2012
9:42 pm

How refreshing….a baseball prospect who did not quit HS football.

The Bear

June 3rd, 2012
9:45 pm

Good luck either way.

Roll Tide

Dawg48

June 3rd, 2012
9:45 pm

4* WR Reggie Davis commits to UGA.

iTiSi

June 3rd, 2012
9:47 pm

I’m just amazed that anyone in AJC sports even knew where Appling County and Baxley is! As far as coverage is concerned once you get past Macon they thinks it’s Florida.

gt4ever

June 3rd, 2012
9:47 pm

Good grief…. He can play baseball…. He will never wear the Bulldog colors…..

The Bear

June 3rd, 2012
9:47 pm

@George Stein talent in what sports? South Georgia is loaded!………………….Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Common ground rocks

June 3rd, 2012
9:50 pm

There is no way he is going to Georgia, in fact, of all the articles I’ve seen writien about Him (including ESPN and Sports Illustrated) this is the first me that mentioned he signed with Georgia…..why? Cause Carvell has to make sure to help out his Bulldogs. Seems like a conflict of interest for a newspaperman….

bitter//dawgs insider

June 3rd, 2012
10:00 pm

@APERSON SO DUMB—You and your 3rd personality (Tide Roll) are both Racist and peter puffers

Bla–hahahahaha————Best of luck to the future BRAVE

GT 94

June 3rd, 2012
10:00 pm

This kid is an outstanding baseball player. However he will not be in athens. This kid is a lock to be going pro. A kid taken top 5 in a Mlb draft would be foolish to turn down the kind of money he will be offered. His signing bonus alone will be a security blanket for the rest of his life. He will go #1 or #2. Astros are idiots if they pass over him.

ryan

June 3rd, 2012
10:03 pm

Breaking News Dawgs land Florida WR Reggie Davis makes #19 commits total Go Dawgs .

GT 94

June 3rd, 2012
10:05 pm

There were several top schools in the country who didn’t recruit him simply because they knew it would be a waste of time. This kind of talent doesn’t sign to play college baseball when your projected to be #1 pick overall. Btw, south ga is loaded with baseball talent. Look at the talent alone from columbus, ga over the years!!!

dawgster

June 3rd, 2012
10:13 pm

@ryan…we are not finished at WR either…quiet a recruiting effort being done by the dawgs coaching…

dawgster

June 3rd, 2012
10:15 pm

AJC article should read Davis chooses UGA over Florida, FSU, Tenn, South Carolina, Notre Dame…but it won’t….go dawgs

dawgs01

June 3rd, 2012
10:19 pm

dawgs just signed a 4star receiver out of tallahassee fl, reggie davis. go check it out. the ajc is slow

ryan

June 3rd, 2012
10:22 pm

Agree dawgster i believe we looking at NC WR M. North also i think Malcolm Mitchell is done at WR he will move DB still need more O-linemen and couple more secondary players .

dawgster

June 3rd, 2012
10:24 pm

Trust me Malcom Mitchell is not done at WR….Remember Champ B….look for more and then some from Mitchell in the future…

David Granger

June 3rd, 2012
10:30 pm

Keep in mind that…because of Title IX…a baseball scholarship is nowhere near a full ride, like a football scholarship is. A Division I baseball team only has 11.7 scholarships to split up among 30 (or so) players. So if he’s a first round MLB draft pick, he’ll probably be offered enough money to put back a full four-years’ worth of college expenses (in case baseball doesn’t work out) and STILL have a huge chunk left.

Paul in NH

June 3rd, 2012
10:34 pm

Average signing bonus for the 1st round in 2011 was over $2MM USD and the top 2 were each over $6 million. Good luck to the kid.

George Stein

June 3rd, 2012
10:36 pm

Baseball, The Bear. The best athletes don’t typically play baseball and he hasn’t faced elite pitching yet.

Greg

June 3rd, 2012
10:39 pm

First, you Alabama idiots need to get a life. Just because your football team is relevant agAin doesn’t mean you are any less of a loser than you’ve always been.

As for this kid, good for him. He obviously has no decision to make…and this is far from the first time that Perno has lost a stud HS recruit to the MLB draft. It’s really hurting the program and he needs to do a much better job of focusing his efforts on getting commitments from players who will actually wind up playing for UGA.

The Bear

June 3rd, 2012
10:45 pm

@Greg…………What does bama comments have to do with this post? Way to downgrade UGA again.

Roll Tide just for you!

BobDawg

June 3rd, 2012
10:53 pm

We will be seeing more kids in the future leaving football for other sports. Look at Joe Mauer and how long his career is compared to if he played football

WorkinDawg

June 3rd, 2012
11:49 pm

Bobdawg, always happens. Baseball money is far greater than football. It was Deion who explained why he played 2 sports: I can be the best cover corner to ever play the game and I will make less money than the 10th best outfielder that year. Makes sense.

@common ground

June 4th, 2012
9:32 am

I read more than one article in the media months ago that mentioned he had signed with UGA. Any good journalist would be remiss in not having that in a story on Buxton. How is that a conflict of interest? It is not like the AJC was editorializing that the kid should sign with the Dogs, but rather basic reporting.

hammerhead

June 4th, 2012
9:44 am

Almost all high school baseball talent is evaluated during club/travel ball tournaments where kids face the best players in the southeast. So, to say this kid hasn’t faced elite pitching is ignoring the travel talent he’s faced. No one is a sure thing, but to think his evaluation is based only his high school performances is not fully understanding how baseball talent is evaluated. It ain’t football. Speaking of which, good for the kid for sticking with his f’ball team, but I promise you if he had ended his baseball career on a football field, he would’ve never forgiven himself or his parents for being in that situation. We’re talking about more money than we can imagine over a very long career if all pans out. High School football ain’t worth that, imo.

Whiskey Breath

June 4th, 2012
10:50 am

I think at Bama we have decided to pull a Ga move.
We are going to declare ouselves the national champion in August.
If anybody questions us, we just going to get all arrogant and classless with them.

George Stein

June 4th, 2012
11:12 am

He really hasn’t done that, Hammerhead. That was my point.

gt4ever

June 4th, 2012
1:51 pm

@George Stein

Maybe the best athletes don’t play soccer, but I am fairly confident that baseball in Georgia doesn’t rank up there with soccer with elite players… Personally if a major league team sees fit to draft him as their number 1 pick, then he will never play a day of college baseball. However, I think the best option for most high school players is college… I think Bryce Harper would probably be a good example of elite baseball player that went to college and is now a pro… I find it hard to believe that this kid is any better than Bryce Harper.. But what do I know…. IMHO…

Bill

June 4th, 2012
2:01 pm

Houston has said they will go with Appel from Stanford #1 a pitcher in 1st round. That means Buck Buxton will go to Twins @#2..and they are on cloud nine about it. He will make Millions so you can forget UGA. Great kid..Let your soul shine.

Hurt Kurbstreit

June 4th, 2012
2:13 pm

Sounds like a great prospect. Too bad he’ll never make to the UGA campus for baseball.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

June 4th, 2012
2:16 pm

@Greg…Your inferiority complex is showing sport.

Best of luck to this young guy! Lets hope he makes it to the Big Show.

@Gamecock….Yes you do own the SEC in baseball !! Congrats and well done.

urban redneck

June 4th, 2012
2:56 pm

good people in baxley………………good luck in the majors, kid.

and he’s not going to UGA. if you’re already going in the top three picks in the draft, why would you bother going to college right now? he seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but i still don’t see him choosing school over going to the pros.

almost out of Wrigley?

June 4th, 2012
2:57 pm

It would be amazing if he decided to go to college for a couple years. Sic em

GTFan2012

June 4th, 2012
3:11 pm

I have a question Mr. Michael Carvell. Have you ever written a tweet about GT recruiting in baseball too well, despite the fact that we’ve lost many a top player to the MLB draft in recent years? I’m just curious, I’ll await your response.

GTFan2012

June 4th, 2012
3:16 pm

I have a question Mr. Michael Car\/ell. Have you ever written a tweet about GT being too good at baseball recruiting, despite the fact that GT has lost numerous players (more than UGA) to the MLB draft over the last few years?

Hit a Single

June 4th, 2012
3:37 pm

Good luck Byron! The State of Georiga appreciates you because of your baseball talent and your humble attitude. You are a winner on and off the field. Once again, good luck!

Kmac

June 4th, 2012
3:46 pm

@ Crimson Crush

Well it is at 95% that BAMA guessed wrong when they backed off Jamesis. Looks like he will be signing with FSU. Sometimes folks just think a little too much when assessing situations.

Caught in a Jacket

June 4th, 2012
4:30 pm

I wonder why he picked UGA over Tech. We clearly have the better baseball team.

harold

June 4th, 2012
4:53 pm

GO FOR THE MONEY!

iTiSi

June 4th, 2012
4:56 pm

OOPS, foot in the mouth there, “C in a J”! Florida sort of put a major whooping on GT yesterday. That was embarrassing wasn’t it? Better not to even go than to get beat that badly!