Every Friday I will be taking an in-depth look at a prospect who is in the lower levels of the minors who may not be high on prospect radars right now, but should be tracked in dynasty league formats. First up is a young pitching prospect in the Rangers' system, right hander Cody Buckel.
Age at End of 2012 Season: 20
On the 40 Man Roster: No
Buckel was drafted by the Rangers out of a California high school in the 2nd round of the 2010 amateur draft. Choosing to forgo a commitment to Pepperdine, Buckel signed for $590,000 and was sent to the Rangers' rookie league affiliate in Arizona before the end of the season. He made 4 appearances, throwing 5 innings in total and striking out 9 with just 1 walk.
The organization sent him to Hickory, their low-A affiliate in the Sally League. He appears to have been eased into starting, as he made just a single 2 inning appearance in April,and threw just 15 innings across 6 appearances in May. From then on he averaged 5 innings per appearance, throwing 79 2/3 innings in 16 appearances. The move to the rotation really started to show dividends, as he posted a 100 K/21 BB ratio, a 2.48 ERA, and a K/9 rate of over 11. For the season, Buckel finished with 120 strikeouts and 27 walks in 96 2/3 innings pitched, good for a 4.44 K/BB rate.
What Does He Bring to the Game?
From Nathaniel Stoltz of Seedlings to Stars:
Buckel also brings a polished four-pitch arsenal to the mound, highlighted by a 90-92 mph fastball and a plus curveball. Furthermore, he uses an extremely long stride to the plate that evokes Tim Lincecum, which both a) helps him maintain clean, repeatable mechanics and b) gives him excellent leverage and deception for a 6'1″ pitcher.
From Mike Newman of Fangraphs and Scouting the Sally:
As a prospect, Cody Buckel is certainly a good one - just how good is left up to how much projection a scout considers him to have. A safe projection is Buckel emerging as a back end starter with four average offerings and no real out pitch to speak of. If one buys into the Lincecum-esque mechanics and smallish frame not being a limiting factor in future velocity, then a higher projection is warranted. For me personally, my more conservative approach forces me to err on the side of caution as scouting double-A now affords me the opportunity to see a plethora of mid-90′s hurlers and better understand just how marginal 89-91 MPH actually is.
Overall, it sounds like the biggest knocks on Buckel are that he will not likely grow to be 6'4" or be able to sit between 94-96 at any point. That said, it sounds like Buckel would be considered a top-tier prospect if he were able to do either of those things. I love seeing that kind of control already, especially the low walk totals combined with the high strikeout rates. Buckel was in an age appropriate league, and potentially young for the league, so I also like seeing it against older hitters.
Where Will He Pitch This Season?
Buckel is expected to start his season in Myrtle Beach, the High-A affiliate for the Rangers in the Carolina League, and will be in the starting rotation there.
What Could Be His Path to the Majors?
The Rangers seem to me to move most players a level a season, so if Buckel performs well I could see him spending 2012 in High-A, 2013 in AA, and debut at some point during the 2014 season. At that point he would still be just 22 years old, so even if he doesn't move at that pace there is still a lot of time potentially before his prime.
What Could He Do In the Majors Once He Gets There?
Buckel seems to me like a control type - not necessarily going to strike out a ton of batters, but also not going to kill you with walks. I could see him developing into a #5 or #6 type starting pitcher for fantasy owners, as he could potentially post solid ratios and a fair amount of strikeouts. With him being so far away from the Majors, that could change, but as of now that's what he appears to be.
I like Buckel a lot, but I want to see what he can do as he continues to move up the minors. High-A may not be a gigantic test for him, so I will be really interested to see what happens once he gets to AA. If he can continue to refine his arsenal and still maintain most of his strikeout and walk rates, he could be on a lot more top 100 lists after the season. The numbers probably won't tell us as much about Buckel, so I'll be very interested in finding scouting reports during the season on him.