Kernels' Buxton Doing Mike Trout Impersonation In Early Season

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

Cedar Rapids Kernels' Byron Buxton makes it to first base during the second inning of their game against Beloit Snappers at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

Tools

By Grant Burkhardt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A lot of locals talked about him being the next Mike Trout. But through four games, Byron Buxton actually has been better than Mike Trout was with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

That is an incredible statement.

Buxton went 4 for 5 in C.R.’s 9-1 win Sunday afternoon over Beloit at Veterans Memorial Stadium. He is 9 for his first 16 with the Kernels, including a double, triple, long home run and two stolen bases in two attempts.

He came up a homer shy of the cycle Sunday, popping to second in the fourth inning for his only out. One pitch prior, he had turned on a ball that had more-than-enough home-run distance to left but hooked foul.

“Been pretty good,” Buxton said of his start. “I’m seeing the ball well, hitting it hard. I’m just trying to improve every day. I’m working on getting a hit a day, and more hits will come after that.”

The 19-year-old Georgia outfielder was the second selection of last year’s Major League Baseball draft, the highest draft pick ever to play in Cedar Rapids, tied with former big-league shortstop Kurt Stillwell. He played in Rookie ball last summer after signing with the Minnesota Twins (for a bonus of $6 million) with decent stats but nothing that suggested he’d adjust to low-Class A and cold weather as well as he has so far.

You’ve seen him flash all five tools: hitting, hitting for power, speed, defense and throwing arm.

“I’ve joked with (hitting coach) Tommy Watkins about him,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “He’s very excited about Byron, as we all are. You’ve got to be blind not to see the man’s ability. He can do a lot of things. You always try to temper your excitement. Let’s see what happens here, let’s see when the lights come on opening day. I’m sure it’s the first time he’s talked to you (reporters) after a game. So that’s been an adjustment for him, too, which is good. That’s part of development.

“But he’s exciting out there to watch run around. He covers a lot of ground.”

“Buck,” as he’s known was asked if his first four games have surprised him. Keep in mind, this is not an outspoken young man, by any means.

He is known as a good teammate.

“I’m just going out and playing my game. That’s about it,” he said. “I’ve got great teammates behind me. They drive me in when I get on base. We’re just trying to do the best that we can. We have good chemistry here.”

It’s ludicrous to think Buxton will keep up this pace. There will be slumps because everyone has them.

Trout, as an 18-year-old, hit .362 with 45 stolen bases in 81 games for the Kernels in 2010 before being promoted to high-A. Anything remotely close to that should make Twins fans ecstatic.

“I think he’s got the mentality with (the ability) that he understands, he knows he’s pretty good,” Mauer said. “He won’t tell you that because he’s a very quiet, humble individual. But he’s got the confidence that you see the good ones have. We’ve got 136 more of these, but these first four games, I don’t think you could make a better first impression.”

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