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Cody Buckel Scouting Report
In the aftermath of the community prospect rankings wrapping up, we continue our write-ups for each Ranger prospect who finished in the top 25. Once again, I issue my usual caveat that I have no first-hand information about these guys, but am simply offering capsule scouting reports for each player based on the info that is out there...
After the jump, we continue by taking a look at the #11 player in the LSB Community Prospect Rankings, righthanded pitcher Cody Buckel...
Cody Buckel is a righthanded pitcher drafted by the Rangers out of high school in Simi Valley, California, in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. Although listed at B-R at 6'1", 170 lbs., Baseball America had Buckel listed at 6 feet even when he was draft-eligible. His short stature and slight build contributed to Buckel being ranked just #157 overall, despite a fastball that could touch 94 and what BA described as "an excellent array of secondary pitches."
The Rangers, who have targeted smaller pitchers like Robbie Ross and Robbie Erlin in the early rounds of late, weren't scared off by Buckel's lack of height, and grabbed him at #72 overall in 2010. Buckel signed for $590,000 -- a little over slot money -- and had a brief stint in the Arizona complex league in 2010, throwing 5 shutout innings in 4 games, striking out 9, walking 1 and giving up 2 hits and no runs.
Although most high school draftees at least start out their first full pro season in a complex league, the Rangers challenged Buckel, sending him to Hickory in the low-A South Atlantic League. Buckel responded to the challenge better than, I think, anyone could have reasonably expected. After allowing 2 runs in his debut appearance, a 2 inning relief outing that was his only appearance in April, Buckel rattled off monthly ERAs of 2.40, 2.16, 3.28, and 2.16, before finishing the year with a 5 inning, 1 run appearance in September.
For the year, Buckel had some eye-popping numbers, with 120 strikeouts in 96.2 innings, walking just 27 and hitting only one batter on the year, whlie allowing 7 home runs. Although Buckel didn't get enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, his 2.61 ERA would have been good for third in the Sally League, had he met the innings requirements, and his strong August resulted in his being named the Rangers' minor league pitcher of the month for August. Baseball America was impressed enough with Buckel's 2011 to rank him the #19 prospect in the South Atlantic League, and the #7 prospect in a deep Ranger system (and since BA included Yu Darvish in the rankings, the essentially had Buckel #6 overall).
I initially thought both the BA and the LSB Community Ranking slotting of Buckel was too high, but the more I think about it, the more I think I may be underrating Buckel. He is reminiscent Joe Wieland, the righty who was sent to San Diego as part of the Mike Adams trade, in that he doesn't have overpowering stuff, but has quality secondary pitches and knows how to pitch.
At the same time, though, there's a danger in getting too excited about how well "pitchability" guys do in the lower minors, particularly pitchers who rely on their offspeed stuff. Hitters at those levels are so raw, and so seldom see pitchers with decent secondary pitches, that they can often be overmatched by pitchers who don't have the stuff to succeed at the upper levels.
For 2012, I expect Buckel will go to Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League, and although he doesn't turn 20 until June, if he has the same sort of success there that he did at Hickory, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Frisco in the second half of the season.
What sort of ceiling does Buckel have? The consensus seems to be that his future depends in large part on his durability -- his lack of size has led to concerns that he can't hold up to a starter's role, and that he might be better suited to the bullpen. That said, his four-pitch repertoire -- along with the fastball, he throws a changeup that has been called a plus pitch, a big breaking curve, and a cutter -- makes him seem like a better fit as a starter. Buckel garners praise for his makeup, intelligence, work ethic and feel for pitching, and while he doesn't seem to be someone who has a ton of upside, if things break right for him, he could end up as a #3 starter.