The Midwest League is in store for a double feature this summer.
Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, picks No. 1 and 2 in the 2012 Draft, are both headed for the circuit to begin their first foray into full-season baseball.
It's a rarer confluence than you might think. Only three times before have top-two Draft picks made their full-season debut together in the same league. The two most recent times this happened were both in the South Atlantic League -- in 2010, with Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon, and in 2002, with B.J. Upton and Bryan Bullington.
To go back to a time when the Midwest League could bill the top two picks to crowds was back in 1984, when Tim Belcher and Kurt Stillwell suited up for the Madison Muskies and Cedar Rapids Reds, respectively.
Given that the Astros and Twins have no affiliates in overlapping leagues above Class A, that ought to make it a hot ticket when Correa's Quad Cities River Bandits meet Buxton's Cedar Rapids Kernels on 15 occasions this summer.
Correa and Buxton will inevitably be compared to one another in the coming years, given their Draft position. Moreso even than most 1-2 pairings, though, given that the last time two high school position players were taken 1-2 was 1990, with Chipper Jones and Tony Clark.
And until they both grace Major League fields, this will likely be the last time they have the chance to compete against one another directly for at least a few years. The two haven't become familiar with each other yet, but it stands to reason they soon will.
"Last year I was in Greeneville and he was in Elizabethton. I saw him and I said, 'Hi,' and stuff but never really got to talk to him at all," said Correa. "Just say, 'Hi.' That's it. But it'll be pretty fun when they come here."
The meeting of these two will be exciting primarily because of how talented they and how quickly they might leave the Minors behind and make an impact in the big leagues. It's behind the very appeal of Minor League baseball -- that before they become larger-than-life figures in Minneapolis and Houston, they'll be taking shape in Iowa.
Correa has drawn rave reviews for his power potential, his ability to field his position and his impressive maturity for a 19-year-old, which sound, frankly, quite similar to the praises sung of Buxton.
"Overall, you look at the package, the great baseball acumen, plus arm, great hands, all the physical tools plus the makeup. It puts the kid in the upper echelon of prospects throughout the industry," said Astros director of player development Quinton McCracken about Correa. "He's a superior talent. Has great makeup and work ethic and all the things you'd want in a No. 1 pick combined in this young man."
"He's picked up the game so much in the time he's been with us. He's a really good kid -- humble, coachable, a hard worker," said Twins director of Minor League operations Brad Steil about Buxton. "I think the tools are as advertised -- everything that was written about him in the Draft last year. He has the total package, you don't find many guys who can be true five-tool players, and he has that potential."
Both delivered modest early returns in their young careers. Last year, between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros and Greeneville, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Correa hit .258/.305/.400 with three homers, two triples and 14 doubles in 50 games.
The 6-foot-2, 189-pound Buxton, between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins and Elizabethton, delivered a .248/.344/.448 line with five homers, four triples and 10 doubles in 48 games.
The comparison could go on, but it'd be disingenuous to suggest the two are so closely intertwined, or have dwelt at all on how one stacks up to the other. Merely, it will be exciting for fans to see two players, who may very well meet on the field of an All-Star game someday, first meet on the field of a Midwest League game.
As Buxton said, "It'll be fun, two good players going at it, trying to help their team win. Should be good."
Or as Correa noted, "The fans will be out there, we'll have a big crowd and we can put on the performances. It will be really fun."
In between their meetings, each will likely dazzle their home crowd with their raw talent while diligently, ever humbly, working out the flaws in their own games.
"We've focused on every single aspect of the game. I wanna do everything better in the game: my defense, my offense, my baserunning, all the tools. I love baseball, so I'm here to work hard every single day and give my best out there," said Correa.
"I just have to grind every day, wake up early to get to the ballpark. I'm keeping my head level, listening to all my coaches. It's mostly just going out there every day making myself better, learning, just putting myself in a position to get better," said Buxton.