Buxton continues popping for Kernels

Twins prospect flashes full set of tools at plate, in center field

Byron Buxton leads the Midwest League with 78 hits this season. (Jeff Murwin/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | June 10, 2013 2:11 PM

As the Minor League season goes through its third month, the Twins organization has boasted two of the most exciting hitting prospects the game has seen thus far.

On Sunday, Miguel Sano homered twice for Class A Advanced Fort Myers and was promoted to Double-A New Britain soon after. It was Byron Buxton's turn to shine Monday. What comes next is still to be seen.

The Twins No. 2 prospect went 3-for-4 with a triple, a double and three RBIs and added an acrobatic diving catch for good measure in Class A Cedar Rapids' 6-2 win over Kane County at Perfect Game Field. The organization's No. 15 prospect Mason Melotakis made it a two-man show by scattering four hits and three walks over seven scoreless innings.

The 19-year-old center fielder's multi-hit performance was his third over his last six games -- all of which have come after he missed four days with a thumb injury -- and jumped his slash line to .350/.444/.578 through 58 games with the Kernels. He leads the Midwest League in each of those categories and ranks eighth among all Minor Leaguers with a 1.022 OPS. (Sano is second at 1.079.)

"I think he's superseded expectations so far," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson told MLB.com. "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 key to that all-around success Monday was Buxton's speed, which is rated at a 70 on the 20-80 scale according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch, and it first got some gasps in the second inning.

After singling and then being picked off in the bottom of the first, the quick-footed center fielder tracked down a screaming liner off the bat of Jeimer Candelario for the first out in the next frame. As it turned out, he wasn't quite done with the glove. An inning later, David Bote hit another gapper, but again, Buxton was there to make a full-extension diving grab over his left shoulder, sending him flying onto the warning track in front of the 407-foot sign in left center.

With his defensive skills fully showcased, he took over with the bat in the fifth.

After Candido Pimentel's bunt single loaded the bases with no outs, Buxton laced a three-run double to center that gave the Kernels a 4-0 lead. The three RBIs on that play alone gave him five in the last two games, equaling his total from his previous 12 games combined before this week. (That comes, however, with the caveat of being a leadoff hitter where sometimes RBI opportunities are few and far between.)

The Cedar Rapids star rounded out his afternoon with another speed display, this time on a seventh-inning triple. It was his eighth three-bagger of the season, good for third-most among Minor Leaguers. Buxton was in the hole when Michael Quesada struck out in the eighth, thus denying him a chance at the homer he needed to complete the cycle.

Meanwhile, Melotakis turned in his second seven-inning performance over his last three starts. It was also his second scoreless outing of the season, following a 5 1/3-inning effort in a 5-1 win over Quad Cities on May 10.

Armed with a plus fastball and a serviceable curveball, the 6-foot-2 left-hander was selected in the second round of last year's Draft as a closer out of Northwestern (La.) State but has transitioned nicely into a starting role in Class A ball. He improved to 6-2 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in his first 11 professional starts.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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