Talent scout eye candy Byron Buxton headlines a potentially star-studded group of Major League Baseball (MLB) prospects. That group will represent the Rochester Red Wings in 2016.
The name Buxton alone should attract more interest than the rest of the team as a whole, not because he’ll be a fixture of fireworks at Frontier Field, but because he may not be there for long at all.
The main function of minor league baseball teams is to groom, provide competitive experience for, and propel future MLB players into “The Show.” The Minnesota Twins and their front office in Minneapolis, whom the Rochester Red Wings exist to feed, are not concerned with their affiliated teams’ wins and losses. While their record may be an indicator of how well the MLB hopefuls are progressing and how ready they are to succeed at the next level, it’s not really an accurate one.
Evidence can be found in Hal and Hank Steinbrenner’s New York Yankees. While their Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, topped their division last year with a record of 81–63, the Yankees have struggled in recent years to project many homegrown prospects into success in the Major Leagues.
While those who work to boost attendance at Frontier Field often front team-related advertisements to the Rochester public, Minor League clubs and their Major League counterparts are in the business of developing professionals who will graduate to the biggest stage.
This function is not a mystery to any Minor-Leaguer involved. The player and the organization have the same goal. The Minnesota organization values only better the Twins, and the Red Wings players want nothing more than to get a call from Paul Molitor, the Twins’ manager, telling them to pack their bags.
For these reasons, the aim of making any predictions on wins and losses for Rochester’s 2016 campaign is nothing more than a crapshoot. Still, there are plenty of reasons to visit the ballpark this spring. Frontier Field may feature future MLB hallmarks, and that should be a reason enough.
Names to look out for:
Byron Buxton, OF
MLB.com has ranked Buxton the No. 2 prospect of 2016. Since being drafted second overall in the MLB draft in 2012, Buxton has consistently appeared at the top of the annually-released list of rankings. In fact, this is the first time since 2013 that somebody other than Buxton has appeared in the No. 1 spot. Buxton actually spent 46 games with the Minnesota Twins last year. One could argue that his promotion to the big leagues was premature. Buxton hit a disappointing .209 average and had only 10 extra base hits in his 46-game debut at baseball’s highest level.
Jose Berrios, RHP
Also drafted in 2012 by the Minnesota Twins’, 21-year-old, right-handed pitcher Jose Berrios is on the MLB.com rankings at the No. 19 spot. Berrios earned serious consideration as a late-season call-up while the Twins were fighting for a playoff spot last September. The side of the argument that favored further development in the Minors pre–call-up ultimately won out. Jose Berrios remained a Red Wing and posted a 14–5 record with a 2.87 ERA in 27 appearances with Twin affiliates last year. Don’t be surprised if Berrios makes the next step to join the Twins’ pitching staff soon. Some have speculated that the front office views him as a future 20-win type of player.
Max Kepler, OF/1B
Though he has yet to be named part of the Red Wings’ official roster for the upcoming season, outfielder and first basemen Maximilian Kepler may find himself at Frontier Field this season. Kepler, the forty-fourth ranked prospect by MLB, left Germany in 2009 to sign with Minnesota. Kepler has bounced around in the Twins’ farm system. There have been major concerns about his health, as he seems to be injury-prone in an everyday role. Still, this powerful 6’4” lefty, who has shown the ability to spray the baseball to all areas of the ballpark, played 112 games with Double-A affiliate Chattanooga Lookouts last season. In these games, Kepler held a very impressive .322 batting average and accumulated 71 RBIs. He was named Southern League Player of the Year.
Tyler Jay, LHP (Drafted sixth overall in 2015 from the University of Illinois)
Nick Gordon, SS (Drafted fifth overall in 2014)
Jorge Polanco, SS (Signed as an international free agent in 2009)