On the night before baseball's top prospect, Byron Buxton, was scheduled to address a crowded ballroom at baseball's minor league awards ceremony, Denard Span breezed through a lobby filled with the sport's movers and shakers.

The former Twins center fielder stopped several times to shake hands and sign autographs Wednesday as he moved coolly to the MLB Network set for a live interview.

Watching the broadcast from a sixth-floor suite at the Dolphin Hotel, Twins general manager Terry Ryan and other team officials smiled. It wasn't all that long ago that Span was painfully shy; now look at him.

"Denard was not comfortable doing interviews and that type of thing when he was coming up through the system and even his first year in the big leagues," said Brad Steil, Twins director of minor league operations. "Denard spent a lot of time and worked hard at it."

In that regard, Buxton, the Twins' star prospect, is years ahead of Span.

As fate would have it, around the time Span exited the lobby, his likely eventual successor as Twins center fielder was walking in. Buxton had just made the 3-1/2-hour drive from Baxley, Ga., in his red Ford F-150. His family stayed behind because of work obligations.

"Can't stop working," Buxton said.

Thanks to that work ethic, and off-the-charts talent, Buxton was set to be honored Thursday evening as Baseball America's minor league player of the year. Still a week from his 20th birthday, Buxton would be addressing what was easily the largest audience of his young life.

The previous high?

"Probably about 25," he said.

Not 2,500. Twenty-five, about the size of the largest class Buxton had at Appling County High School.

He offered a few details about his speech, in which he planned to thank God, his family, the Twins and his agency, Jet Sports Management.

"It will be short, I'm sure," he said with a laugh.

The Twins know Buxton can play or they wouldn't have drafted him second overall in 2012 and handed him a $6 million signing bonus, largest in club history. Even so, they were amazed by some of the things he did on baseball fields in 2013 during dominant stops at low-Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Fort Myers.