By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
March 25, 2010
Buckel pitched with the fastball at 89-93 with occasional cutter and frequent sinking action, averaging 92 in the early innings, a notch up from averaging 91 as he routinely did over the summer. The curveball at 72-75 showed shape and modest power in the early innings. He threw his change-up at 75 with deception and a slider at 87-89.
Buckel’s real weapons were on display here. The first thing you would notice is the arm speed, which is above average. Though he’s just around 6-0, Buckel’s balance and coordination show in his closed windup. He generates a great deal of torque from his core. In this respect he resembles Orel Hershiser.
Buckel’s lean and wiry frame offers signs that there is more room for additional power to come from his chest and legs, and the fact that he’s a notch taller than he was last summer suggests that he could gradually add one more notch of power.
No matter what velocity Buckel winds up pitching at in his 20s, this look showed that his awareness and use of his fastball command and fastball movement are what will allow him to maximize his secondary pitches. Buckel’s overall array is competitive, but on the pro scale, he lacks a signature pro side knock out secondary pitch. Conversely, how he pitches with his fastball movement and location are naturally geared toward missing bats. When he puts the fastball where he wants to, as he did for the first five innings in this start, Buckel is shrewd enough on the mound to be able to bring in his secondary pitches and create more deception than he has stuff.
“I was able to base everything secondary off my fastball,” Buckel told Baseball Beginnings. “I hear from hitters that I create illusions of the rising fastball, but I think much of it is an optical illusion. To be able to locate the fastball and bring in the secondary pitches means I don’t have to rely only on velocity.”
Turning off the radar gun and watching Buckel pitch, the sixth inning demonstrated that he has the ability to adjust without his best stuff at a given moment and still execute a pitch. Falling behind 3-0, he came back to work the count full before losing the hitter on a walk. A hard sinker in the dirt moved the runner up. He got out of the inning by getting Yelich to ground out.
Buckel struck out Yelich, a tall and projectable left-handed hitter, in the first inning. He threw Yelich fastballs at 92, 92, 93 and a curveball at 75, his hardest of the outing. He threw Yelich a change-up at 75 in the second at-bat before inducing a ground ball.
One of the better left-handed hitters in Southern California for the 2010 Draft, Yelich looked rusty against good velocity, which only means that he’s not the first prospect to struggle from facing 90 in the summer to 70 in the spring. He also ran into a good arm having a good day.
Overall, former Arizona State right-hander Mike Leake wouldn’t be a bad long-term comparison for Buckel. Both are about the same size, both will live on fastball movement and command, both will thrive off deception and pitching rather than throwing.
Leake, like Buckel, was a two-way player in high school. Buckel, like Leake, will be more than athletic enough to be able to play two ways in college and make contributions daily.
In a large man’s game where velocity is rewarded, Buckel would do well to simulate Leake’s career path that took him from the 13th round out of high school to the 1st round out of college. Like Leake, Buckel will never be the biggest power arm around. But his outing Wednesday showed four pitches, fastball command and movement, a feel for pitching, a competitive side, athleticism and balance, all aspects that are marks of the complete professional pitcher.