Monday, June 8, 2015

Did Correa Open Buxton's Door?

The Minnesota Twins have spent the last week or so jostling for position atop the AL Central. Having somewhat cooled off after their torrid run in may, the offense has been somewhat to blame. Now having brought power hitting designated hitter Kennys Vargas back into the fold, it appears that may be a targeted approach for run support. To help further, the Twins could look at the blueprint laid out by fellow AL surprise team, the Houston Astros, and allow top prospect Byron Buxton to follow in Carlos Correa's footsteps.

Houston made the move to call up top prospect Correa over the weekend. He was the lone player drafted ahead of Buxton, and has also experienced a ton of success at the minor league level. Starting at Double-A Corpus Christi this season, Correa slashed .385/.459/.726 with seven home runs and 32 runs batted in. He added 15 stolen bases and legged out 15 doubles as well. By all accounts, Correa dominated the Texas League.

The Astros sent Correa to Triple-A Fresno for 24 games following his hot start. While his average dipped (.276) he still got on base at a high clip (.345) and slugged .449. It was after just 24 games in the Pacific Coast League that Houston believed they had seen enough. In bringing up Correa, the Astros signified a desired to maximize their current winning ways, and continue along that path well into the summer.

Now the Twins have the opportunity to follow suit. With the Cubs having promoted Kris Bryant a few weeks ago, and Correa getting the call, Byron Buxton remains the last of the elite tier of prospects expected to reach the major leagues this season.

Much like Correa, Buxton suffered a lost season in 2014. Correa played in 62 games before suffering a season ending injury. In 2014, Buxton was only able to play in 31 games after dealing with a wrist injury and then a concussion. Now 54 games into his 2015 season, there's no doubt that the countdown to his arrival is on.

Unlike Correa, Buxton hasn't lit the Double-A Southern League on fire. After starting incredibly cold, he has evened out and is now batting .267/.327/.475. Outside of the traditional batting line however, his speed has played tremendously, evidenced by his league leading 11 triples and 19 stolen bases. Things are also continuously trending up for Buxton, who has batted .318/.376/.541 since May 16.

There's no doubt the Twins could use a boost at the top of their lineup, and Buxton profiles as an ideal leadoff hitter. Despite what Brian Dozier has done for Minnesota this season, it still makes sense to get a couple of guys on ahead of his power bat. Followed in the lineup by players like Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer, Buxton hitting ahead of that group would no doubt be a positive.

On top of the added offensive boost, the Twins could transform their outfield into a positive situation less than halfway through the season. Instead of Oswaldo Arcia and Torii Hunter flanking center, Minnesota could go Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Aaron Hicks from left to right. Hunter would factor in at the DH spot and could spell Hicks in certain situations. No matter the configuration, Buxton possesses Gold Glove ability in the outfield with speed that would make Target Field look small.

At this point, it's hard to imagine that we aren't past the Super 2 deadline for prospects, and whether or not the Twins are taking that into consideration really shouldn't matter. I'm not ready to suggest that Buxton will be in Minnesota by the end of the month, but Correa's promotion should be seen as more of a blueprint for the Twins to follow than anything.

While believing we would see the star centerfielder sometime in August a few weeks ago, there's no doubt the timeline has changed to sometime in July at the latest. Minnesota is on a great run, and sustaining it will be done from within. Getting your best asset to the big leagues sooner than later is a great place to start.

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