Byron Buxton, the top-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, is scheduled to begin his rehab assignment with the Rochester Red Wings (AAA) tonight, but it is uncertain if the outfielder will return to the Minnesota Twins at all in 2015.
The 21-year-old center fielder has been out since injuring his thumb on a stolen base attempt in late June.
Minnesota is allowed to give Buxton 20 days worth of a rehab assignment before either activating him or optioning him to the minor league roster. The team has made it clear that he needs to prove that he’s healthy in these games while performing as well or else he might be optioned and finish the season in Rochester. But if he really is healthy, playing well shouldn’t be a problem.
The minor leagues have never been an issue for the former first-round pick. He legged out 12 triples in 59 games with the Chattanooga Lookouts (AA) to start the season. Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier is the current Major League leader in triples with just 11 and he’s played in over 100 games to reach that mark. Speed is a big part in every way of Buxton’s game. He also stole 20 bases while playing for Chattanooga, which would place him third in the American League this year, despite the sample size of under 60 games in Double-A.
This rehab assignment will be Buxton’s first taste of the Triple-A level. He was promoted from Chattanooga and made his Major League debut on June 14th, scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning in a win against the Texas Rangers, but he went on to struggle making the adjustment at the big league level. Buxton hit just .198 over the course of 11 games, drawing two walks and stealing a base.
Buxton will be eased back into action this week and play as the Red Wings designated hitter tonight, but it shouldn’t be too long before he is back in centerfield. Twins catching prospect Josmil Pinto is expected to return from a concussion and he is also expected to get worked back into the Triple-A lineup as a designated hitter as well.