Chris GarosiFantasy Baseball

30 Prospects in 30 Days: Cody Buckel – SP – Texas Rangers

Is Cody Buckel a top of the rotation pitcher? Or is he destined to be back of the rotation fodder. Read along as we walk through Buckel’s resume. I scouted Buckel last year and a short report is also included.

Cody Buckel was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 Amateur Draft out of Royal High School in Simi Valley, CA. The 20 year-old right hander is listed at 6’ 1”and 170 pounds though both measurements look a bit generous from my one chance to view him on the mound.

Cody Buckel
Source: Dallas Morning News

Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Buckel as the number 11 prospect in the Rangers system. Their 2013 team rankings are not yet out, but with Jason Parks at the helm over at BP, it will be interesting to see where Buckel rates as Parks started his prospecting days by focusing on the Rangers and has always been a bit lower on Buckel than others.

Baseball America had Buckel as the #28 prospect in the Rangers system after the 2010 season, #6 after 2011 and #8 after 2012. He is currently the fourth pitcher on the Rangers top prospect list after Martin Perez (3), Justin Grimm (5) and Luke Jackson (6).

Keith Law of ESPN ranks Buckel as the number 90 prospect (three spots ahead of Martin Perez) in his 2013 top 100. Law also had him just outside his mid-season top 50 in 2012.

Buckel breezed through his first full season at Low A Hickory as a 19 year old. His strikeout rate was fantastic and his peripherals were just as good. In his move to high A Myrtle Beach, Buckel showed continued dominance. For a pitcher without outstanding stuff, Buckel has a good variety of pitches that he can use to fool lower level hitters.

However, at AA, we saw the first signs of slowing performance for Buckel (likely due to the improvement in the quality of hitters faced). His strikeout rate dipped by nearly two strikeouts per nine innings from 10.8 to 8.9 K/9.

The projection continuum for Buckel is vast. I’ve seen some experts say that he has the ability to be a #2 or #3 starter at the big league level. Others have said that Buckel will struggle as he moves up the developmental ladder due to his lack of overpowering stuff and could top out as a back-end starter. He won’t be given as many breaks as a left-hander with the same measurables might. Short, right-handed pitchers who get by on less than electrifying stuff are not the sexiest prospects.

I visited Frederick, MD on May 3, 2012 to see the Frederick Keys host the Myrtle Beach Pelicans for a mid-morning game with Buckel on the mound for the Pelicans.

During the game, Buckel threw anywhere from 71 to 91 miles per hour (on the scoreboard radar) with his fastball sitting in the high 80s, touching 90-91 at times when he needed it. He breezed through the Keys lineup for seven innings. He seemed to be able to get ground balls whenever he needed a double play.

The only potential wart arose during back-to-back at bats with Aaron Baker of the Keys. In the fourth, Buckel went 71, 87 and 91 mph to set Baker down on three pitches. Baker came back up in the sixth and it looked like Buckel was going to try the exact same sequence. Baker got down 0-2 and then pulled an 86 mph pitch into right field for a single. Baker looked like he made an adjustment and Buckel thought (was hoping?) that Baker would not.

I believe the Rangers will start Buckel where he left off last year with the AA Frisco RoughRiders. If he continues to develop as he has in the past, I can see a promotion to AAA just after the All-Star break.  If he has any developmental issues, the Rangers will leave him at AA until he has them ironed out.

Buckel’s 2014 season will likely start at AAA and he should remain there for most of the season. I believe that Buckel will have some hiccups along the way (especially in AAA). I cannot see Buckel making an impact at the major league level until September 2014 unless there are significant injuries to the major league staff.  I see Buckel as a back-end of the rotation starter at best – his lack of stuff will be exposed at the upper levels unless he gets his fastball a tick or two faster.

Fact to impress your friends: Buckel’s last name is pronounced ‘byou-KELL’ and not like the word ‘buckle’. Correct all of your friends as they mispronounce his name at your draft. They’ll be impressed.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Follow me on Twitter @chrisgarosi and ask away.

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