By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
May 21, 2010
Cody Buckel has enough power to be a pro prospect, but power probably won’t be his strength as he ages. For Buckel, his greatest weapon will be alternating the natural sink and run he gets with his two-seam fastball.
When you look at this player down the road, he has the potential to have a fastball that grades out to slightly above-average in velocity and above-average in movement and command. You see bits and pieces of it at this stage of his development, including in this most recent outing, a 1-0 complete game playoff victory.
I envision Buckel as a pitch-ability type with more power than your typical finesse right-hander. I have put Mike Leake on him in the past. I also see Dan Haren characteristics.
Buckel hit 94 twice in the first inning and 93 once, but those show-me fastballs for the radar guns aren’t meant to do anything other than to prove that he’s healthy. Buckel tends to flatten out above 93 at this stage and he knows it. He pitches to his strengths instead of to radar guns, which you have to like.
He settled into the 90-92 range for the first three innings and showed the beginning touches of a pitcher learning to let his natural movement work for him. Buckel pitched comfortably in this range, letting his late fastball movement low in the strike zone get outs. He pitched to contact against metal bats and has enough power at this stage to get away with it. Most of his outs were strikeouts or ground balls. Nothing hard. He trusts his fastball.
His breaking ball in this look was 75-76 in the early innings. It wasn’t as good as the breaking ball he had in his no-hitter against Westlake, though he is showing the beginning stages of learning how to repeat the pitch. It was more of a slurve here, an 11/5 look against right-handers, which would be a decent college pitch but not a premium pro weapon at this point. With that said, the pitch has showed progression from earlier looks I had at Buckel at the Area Code Games and at various other events.
The breaking ball has potential to continue improving, especially as Buckel continues to grow and get stronger. He’s very lanky and is still learning to harness his mechanics. I felt he had some moments where he was more on top of the ball than I have seen in the past and maintains downhill plane on his fastball.
I’m also not convinced that he is not pitching through growth cycles now. He’s a legit 6-foot-1 now, which is an improvement from last year by about three inches. He has not scratched the surface of strength and conditioning training. In the coming years, you could see the guy throwing 92-94 with the same movement and command he has at 90-92 today. That would make him more similar to a Haren type than a Leake type.
Buckel mixed in an occasional change-up at 80-81, a pitch that could become more of a weapon in the coming years. He shows some feel for the pitch, typically masking it by hiding his arm behind his narrow frame and maintaining consistency between his fastball arm speed and release points.
By the seventh inning, Buckel’s fastball velocity was 86-87, but he was still consistently finishing what he had left, which reflects athleticism. Working with slipping stuff, he got enough movement on a sinker to get a game-ending double play. This is the kind of stuff that you don’t need a gun for. You need to be able to see if a guy can pitch when it counts, when he’s deep into a game and when he’s getting tired. I want to know what the guy has under the letters on his chest. Winning pitchers do that and they tend to do it an early age. If you work the gun and the blackberry, you miss it. If you watch the game, you don’t.
Buckel is also one of the better all-around “baseball athletes” in Southern California in this draft, something I think is probably overlooked by some scouts because his average height tricks them into thinking he lacks physical projection. He has large and strong forearms and a loose wrist. His athletic actions on the mound are fast and repetitive. Buckel is one of the more physically agile, balanced and coordinated pitchers in Southern California in this draft. He’s got an elastic frame and good body control. This is also shown by the fact that he’s a fifth infielder on the mound. He holds runners. He commands the pace of a game. These are aspects that guns won’t tell but are things that people in uniforms will like a lot.
In the coming years, he’ll need to continue to work to consistently stay on top of the ball and need to continue developing power. The more power he can attain without losing movement and command, the better he’ll be.
Read Cody Buckel Q&A
Watch Cody Buckel Video
Read March Cody Buckel Scouting Update