Is it possible to be so bad in your first taste of major-league action that you can't recover? Sure. The history of baseball is littered with once-promising prospects who end up totally overmatched in their first stints in the majors and just never recover.
Take former Cubs' top prospect Brett Jackson, who reached the upper levels of the minors as a power-speed combo who put up consistent high-.800's OPS despite his contact issues. Jackson made it to the majors for a cup of coffee at 23 in 2012, floundered and never really recovered. His early failures exposed limitations in Jackson's game he was never really able to overcome.
On the other hand, you have Reggie Jackson. Jackson came to the majors as a 21-year-old with the A's in 1967, after clubbing his way through the minors to the tune of a .295/.371/.578 line. His early struggles obviously didn't doom him to a lifetime of irrelevance.
So, depending on how you want to view it based on these handpicked examples, Byron Buxton is either totally doomed or will be totally fine. Buxton was totally overmatched in his first run through the majors last season, and his numbers actually look a lot like the two Jacksons:
Buxton, 2015: .209/.250/.326; 31.8 K%, 4.3 BB%
Reggie Jackson, 1967: .178/.269/.305; 34.1 K%, 7.5 BB%
Brett Jackson, 2012: .175/.303/.342; 41.5 K%, 15.5 BB%
The truth is, Buxton isn't likely to be either Jackson, regardless of what his 138 PA showed last season. The point is that struggling at that young of an age, in that small of a sample size doesn't necessarily tell us what the rest of a players' career is going to be like.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't take his 2015 stint and throw it out entirely. Buxton's minor-league track record is still extremely promising (.301/.383/.489 line in 1,227 plate appearances), but after watching him flail through the majors last season has to lower your short-term expectations a bit. Buxton's failure to take the league by storm last season is obviously a mark against him coming into this season, and you can see that in his average draft position: He is going 212th on average across the industry, according to FantasyPros.com.
Still, it doesn't make any kind of sense to just abandon all hope with Buxton just because he struggled -- hence the Reggie Jackson comparison. Buxton still has tremendous tools, and still comes into the 2016 season as the No. 2 prospect at both BaseballProspectus.com and Baseball America. Buxton may never hit major-league pitching, but you have to give his minor-league track record and scouting report more weight than his stint last season in the majors.
Buxton might have been pressing, after all. The 21-year-old had trouble making contact, swinging and missing on 13.5 percent of the pitches he faced. That was never much of an issue for him in the minors, as Buxton never posted a strikeout rate above 20.3 percent in a full season in the minors. Given his ability to post decent power numbers in the minors -- as well as the projected growth nearly every scout sees in his future -- Buxton should be able to avoid the type of struggles Billy Hamilton has had with pitchers just overpowering him.
Buxton is a risk on Draft Day, for sure. If he had never made it to the majors last season, he would undoubtedly be going higher than he currently is, and his struggles last season make him much less of a sure thing than we expected. And there is always the chance his spring struggles extend to the point where he loses his presumptive hold on the job.
Still, the talent that has made Buxton one of the most hyped prospects in recent years hasn't just disappeared. The physical tools are still there, and the overall track record still screams "star." Buxton could be a .300 hitter with double-digit power and 50-steal potential -- a true five-category contributor -- and there just aren't many players going in the later rounds on Draft Day who have true first-round potential, making Buxton someone you probably want to take a risk on.