Since Nolan Ryan became president of the Texas Rangers in 2009, they have become known as one of the tightest run organizations in baseball; combining savvy roster building with cultivating a deep farm system. Because of Ryan’s Hall of Fame pedigree as a pitcher, he has added pressure to develop a stable of dominant young pitchers. He has already made great strides with that process, with one of the most exciting prospects in Cody Buckel.
Although he has a slight build (6’1, 170 pounds), Buckel, a right-handed starter, has the Rangers salivating about his potential. He was drafted out of high school in 2010 in the second round of the draft, eschewing a scholarship to Pepperdine in order to start his professional career. The decision to skip college was likely a smart decision given how advanced Buckel is at such a young age. He possesses a fastball in the low 90’s, a big curveball, slider, and a changeup. He has the potential to have all four offerings average as at least average pitches if they continue to develop, which is something that not many pitching prospects can claim, and a major reason why he has such a high probability of sticking as a starter.
The Rangers initially proceeded cautiously with Buckel, having him pitch in just 4 games in 2010. However, they gave him much more rope in 2011, as he appeared in a total of 23 games in A-level, posting an 8-3 record, 2.61 ERA, and 120 strikeouts in 96.2 innings. More information on his statistics is available here.
Buckel has started 2012 with the Rangers’ High-A level team and will have his innings increased once again. If he continues to make the same progress he has achieved thus far in his brief professional career, it will only be a matter of 2-3 more years before he is pitching in Arlington. This past off-season he shared some insight on his experiences in baseball. If you want to follow Buckel through this season, you can also check him out on Twitter.
Cody Buckel Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: My favorite teams growing up were the Yankees and Athletics. I followed Derek Jeter and Barry Zito, so since they were my favorite players I followed their teams.
What pitches do you have in your arsenal, and which one do you think you need to improve the most?: I have four pitches: fastball (both four-seam and two-seam), changeup (like a circle change), curveball, and a cutter/slider. I would like to get more feel with the changeup and more consistency with the cutter/slider.
Can you run through what your 2010 draft experience was like?: When I was drafted I was actually at school taking an English final. I had to tell my teacher that I needed my phone on the desk. The Twins called in the early second round and I didn’t accept their offer; then the Padres called me and asked if I was still at my number, but they passed me up, so I was getting a little nervous I would get passed up completely. But then the Rangers called and confirmed the number and about 30 seconds later I was a Ranger. It was the happiest moment of my life knowing all the hard work had paid off and I was going to start a professional career.
After you signed your first contract, did you do anything to treat yourself or celebrate with friends and family?: After I signed, my family and I celebrated by just having a good dinner together. That dinner had to be put on hold actually because the day after I signed I was in Arizona conditioning and finishing the rookie ball season.
How much preparation did you have to put in to transitioning from relieving to starting last season?: Since I have been a starter all my life, it was the relieving that was new to me, so when I got into the rotation I was much more comfortable. I was able to prepare better mentally and ready my body and arm more easily.
Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with fellow pitching prospect Trevor Bauer?: Trevor Bauer and I go back a few years. We met in Arizona when we happened to be on the same Junior Olympic team. We clicked instantly and had the same interests and goals at such a young age (I think we were 13 when we met). We stayed and touch and pushed each other to do well and were constantly challenging one another to see who’d get more k’s or less hits (we even did this last year in our first year of pro ball). He’s almost my mentor even though he isn’t that much older than me; however, his baseball and pitching knowledge is way beyond his years and any player or coach that I know for that matter (mechanics and the effect the pitching motion has on the body). We have a great friendship and hope to be pitching against each other in the big leagues soon.
What are the biggest challenges you believe you still need to conquer before you will be major league ready?: The biggest challenge is to stay healthy all year round. I feel if I keep my body and arm in great shape there’s nothing stopping me from living the dream I’ve had since I was 8. I’m fiddling with my mechanics right now to insure my arm stays healthy and can endure a full season without tiring.
Have you had any interactions with or advice from Nolan Ryan?: I met Nolan the day I signed, but that the only interaction I’ve had with him. It was pretty incredible to be standing in the same room with such an icon of the game. I do hope to be able to talk with him about pitching and any advice he might have to better my game.