Prospect of the Day: Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers
Although many scouts harbor a traditional bias against short right-handed pitchers, some teams don't hesitate to invest in this demographic. Case in point: the Texas Rangers. One of their best prospects is Cody Buckel, a 6-0 right-handed pitcher who is currently dominating the High-A Carolina League.
Buckel was drafted in the second round in 2010, from high school in Simi Valley, California. He was committed to Pepperdine but signed with the Rangers for $590,000. He threw five scoreless innings in rookie ball after signing, fanning nine, then moved up to the full-season Low-A South Atlantic League for 2011. He thrived for Hickory, posting a 2.61 ERA with a sharp 120/27 K/BB in 97 innings, allowing just 83 hits. He's been even better in 2012, posting a 1.14 ERA in eight starts for High-A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League, with a 59/17 K/BB in 47 innings and just 23 hits allowed.
Overall, Buckel has pitched 149 professional innings, with a 2.05 ERA and a 188/45 K/BB ratio, with just 108 hits allowed. All of his component ratios are excellent or better.
Buckel is listed variously at 6-0 or 6-1, between 175 and 185 pounds depending on the source. He looks shorter and lighter than any of his listed numbers. Either way, he's a good athlete though short of classic size for a right-hander. Born June 18, 1992, he demonstrates more intellectual curiosity and emotional maturity than most players his age. Buckel has a solid fastball that hits 94 MPH on his best days, but even at his more common velocities (88-92) it works well. He usually uses a four-seam grip but will use a two-seem to give the hitters different looks on occasion.
Both pitches play up due to the contrast with his secondary pitches. His changeup is very good and better than those possessed by most 20-year-old pitchers. He's developed a nasty cutter to go with a more traditional slider, and he has a big-breaking slow curve. He mixes his pitches well and usually demonstrates sharp command. Obviously his statistics are excellent to this point in his career.
Buckel is good friends with Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Trevor Bauer. They work together and have a similar approach to the game. Although Buckel hasn't had any serious health issues so far, his high-effort, Tim Lincecum-style delivery makes some scouts worry about his long-term durability. Some believe he will thrive in relief at higher levels and would make a terrific closer, but others think that his athleticism will help him stay healthy, and that he can develop into a mid-rotation starter. Either way, he's highly-promising and could move up to Double-A at any time.