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Updated: April 16th, 2014 7:07pm
Would Byron Buxton currently be one of the Twins' best players?

Would Byron Buxton currently be one of the Twins' best players?

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Here's a crazy hypothetical:

What if Byron Buxton would be the Minnesota Twins' second-best position player right now?

Yes, he is currently sidelined at Double-A New Britain with a sore wrist, and yes, he has yet to make his major league debut. I know.

But according to two popular baseball projection systems - ZiPS and Oliver - Buxton, if healthy, would be among the Twins' best position players in 2014, despite the fact that he has yet to play a game above High-A.

ZiPS, which can be found on Fangraphs.com and was developed by ESPN's Dan Szymborski, projects Buxton - again, hypothetically - to hit .254/.321/.369 with nine home runs, 30 stolen bases and a 2.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 121 games this season. In the major leagues.

Oliver, which can also be found on Fangraphs.com and was developed by Brian Cartwright, projects Buxton to hit .254/.318/.411 with 14 home runs, 30 stolen bases and a 3.7 WAR in 143 games.

The Twins' position player leaders in WAR last year were Joe Mauer (5.2), Brian Dozier (2.8) and Pedro Florimon (1.3) - the latter due mostly to his defense at shortstop.

For reference (and to prove these systems don't provide overinflated projections), ZiPS projects Mauer to hit .292/.378/.414 with 10 home runs in 134 games this season, which would obviously be a sub-par season. Oliver projects Mauer to hit .300/.382/.444 with 13 homers.

Considering Buxton is a career .312/.404/.502 hitter in the minors to this point, it probably isn't much of a stretch to suggest the same thing these projection systems are - that Buxton could hold his own offensively and steal bases while playing elite defense at a difficult position, center field.

How many Twins position players legitimately hold their own offensively, steal a ton of bases, and/or play elite defense at a difficult position? (Hint: Not many...)

Of course, he's currently injured. And the Twins don't have much incentive to start his service time clock anytime soon. It's possible Buxton could still debut later this year, but a 2015 arrival seems more likely. 

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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