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Twins’ top prospect Buxton getting on track

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MINNEAPOLIS — It’s been a lost season of sorts for one of Major League Baseball’s top prospects. But as the Minnesota Twins appear to be falling out of contention in the American League, highly-touted outfield prospect Byron Buxton finally appears to be getting his 2014 season on track.

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Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, has been the consensus top prospect in baseball each of the last two seasons. But a wrist injury in spring training left him on the shelf until early May. He returned for five games before re-injuring the same wrist while sliding into third base, causing him to miss nearly two more months.

He returned to action at Class-A Fort Myers on July 6 and struggled in the early going, getting only two hits in his first 15 at-bats. Buxton seems to have found a groove over his last three games, getting multiple hits in each outing, highlighted by a 4-for-6 night at the plate in a 17-inning loss to Daytona on Friday. He’s also hit a home run in each of his last two starts and was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Week.

More importantly, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said, are types of hits Buxton is getting with the Miracle.

“It’s encouraging that he’s hit a couple of balls with power,” Ryan said. “That’s good to see. It’s not like he’s getting choppers and beating them out. He’s hitting the ball hard and some of them are going over the fence.

“His past three games, he’s played some impressive games.”

Despite the fact Buxton is only 20 years old and he has less than 100 at-bats this season, he could be a candidate for a quick promotion to Double-A New Britain if he continues to hit over the next week or two. That decision will come down to Director of Minor League Operations Brad Steil with input from former major league first baseman and current Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz.

“When he’s ready to go, they’ll say ‘Let’s go, he doesn’t need to be here any longer,’” Ryan said. “It’s not like they are selfish there because they need him there to win a division. They already won the first half and they’re about 30 games over .500, so as soon as somebody says to us, ‘Hey, he’s ready, let’s go,’ we’ll move him.”

It’s not out of the realm that a healthy Buxton, with the number of injuries and uncertainty in the Twins outfield, would have made his debut in the big-leagues by now. He hit .308 with 30 doubles, 22 triples, 18 home runs and 66 steals in 178 games between rookie ball and High-A ball in 2012 and 2013. He also is a plus center fielder with plenty of range and a strong arm.

If he hits through August and the Twins continue to struggle, Buxton may even find his way to Target Field for a September call-up.

For now, the organization is just happy to see their top prospect back in the fold. The continued hope is that the early injuries this season haven’t delayed his arrival in the majors too long.

“It’s encouraging. It’s been a while for him,” Ryan said.

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