The Minnesota Twins had Georgia on their minds with the No. 2 pick of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Byron Buxton, an outfielder from Appling County High School who has signed a baseball scholarship with Georgia, was selected second overall in Monday night’s draft. Carlos Correa, a 17-year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico, was drafted No. 1.
“It really went down to the wire for No. 1, from what I understand,” said Appling County coach Jeremy Smith. “Houston decided in the last 10 seconds to go with the kid from Puerto Rico, from what I was told by some people in the know. It was OK, though. Byron’s [advisor] told us that he wasn’t going past the Twins at the next pick.”
When Buxton’s name was announced next, there was a big celebration among the 1,000 family members and friends who had gathered for the draft party in the small South Georgia town of Baxley, located 200 miles southeast of Atlanta. Meanwhile, Buxton, with cameras focused upon him, appeared calm and relaxed.
“He was smiling some but didn’t have much emotion,” Smith said with a laugh. “A lot of kids would’ve been bouncing around or crying, and that was [Buxton] being cool under pressure. He always has the same demeanor, no matter what’s going on. He’s a great kid who does a good job of keeping everything in perspective.”
Said Buxton, “It was great to be picked so high; It’s good to be a Twin. I don’t know too much about the organization but I will get to know them better … I was relaxed about the whole [draft]. I was just ready to be picked by somebody and go play ball somewhere.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Buxton was praised for his high ceiling of potential as five-tool prospect and for leading his high school to the Class AA state championship. Buxton, who has been clocked at 99 mph, struck out 18 batters in last week’s clinching game. He will play centerfield in the professional ranks.
There was speculation that the Twins, which sorely need pitching, might take Stanford University’s Mark Appel with the second pick. However, Minnesota Director of Scouting Deron Johnson told reporters that Buxton was “absolutely” the prospect they wanted all along.
“We targeted Byron since last summer. … He’s a five-tool player [with a] tremendous ceiling,” Johnson said. “He’s a really good kid, hard worker, [and a] 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.”
Buxton, who said he expects to sign well before the July 13 deadline, comes from a middle-class background. His father drives a truck for a living, while his mother works at a school cafeteria. This year’s No. 2 pick has a slotted bonus of $6.2 million.