FRISCO, Texas -- The Texas Rangers not only have one of the elite teams in the major leagues, they also have a minor league system full of talented prospects.
Everyone knows the names Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt, who are tearing it up with Double-A Frisco. Justin Grimm had a stint with the Rangers before making Triple-A Round Rock his new home. The Express have seen Martin Perez make his way up to the big league club. However, a guy that doesn’t get a lot of recognition that is quietly working his way up the system in a hurry is Frisco’s Cody Buckel.
Buckel was turning heads in Advanced-A Myrtle Beach, tallying a 5-3 record with a 1.31 ERA in 13 starts. He was pitching so well that he was called up to the RoughRiders on June 22 to see how he would handle Double-A ball.
He’s had some ups and downs since arriving in Frisco, but he certainly has upside.
“He’s throwing four pitches for strikes,” RoughRiders pitching coach Jeff Andrews said. “He’s trying to command his fastball a little better and make that more of a priority for him. We’re working on game management, base runners, leadoff walks and just little things that happen during a game that may influence it.”
The 20-year-old Buckel is in his second full year in the system after being drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2010 First Year’s Players Draft out of high school. Buckel spent the entire 2011 season with Single-A Hickory, compiling an 8-3 record with a 2.61 ERA. He tallied 120 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings of work.
The success from Hickory and Myrtle Beach haven’t translated over to Frisco as Buckel had hoped, and he's still making adjustments to Double-A hitters.
“I’m going to use the rest of this year to kind of learn and get used to it,” Buckel said. “The numbers are going to do what they are. I’m not too worried about the numbers, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go out there and have good results for the team. It’s really a learning experience. Sometimes, I have to realize I’m just 20 years old and have to learn rather than face some adversity and some failure.”
Things have been a little shaky for Buckel, but he still shows a ton of promise. Frisco manager Steve Buechele has certainly been impressed with what he’s seen from Buckel.
“I see a kid that works pretty hard and has good stuff,” Buechele said. “I think he’s trying to find his way here at Double-A. It’s a big jump for any pitcher, no matter how good you are. He definitely has the stuff. For a young kid competing at this level, I think he’s done a good job. There is, obviously, some refining that needs to be done.
“I’ve seen him get better and he’s handled it well. Guys here hit mistakes. They kill mistakes. One thing about Cody is that he has a knack for not giving up runs. If he keeps that trait, it will serve him well while he’s here.”
Buckel is just 1-5 with a 4.45 ERA in Double-A, but he has had some good outings, including a masterful piece of pitching on July 4 when he gave up just one hit in six innings of work. The right-hander said he knows he’s still has plenty of adjustments to make, some more critical than others.
“Most of them are mentally -- just knowing how fast the game is now,” Buckel said. “Obviously, the hitters are better, the teams are better and the situations in the game dictate a little more than they do at the lower levels. It’s just more of a mental adjustment.”
The Simi Valley, Calif., native has a full arsenal of pitches, including a fastball, curveball, changeup, slider and cutter.
“His off-speed stuff is good,” Andrews said. “He’s got three or four different speeds and angles that he can throw. He puts a lot of emphasis on that. He can make the ball go different ways. He can make the ball have different speeds. I don’t think he’s going to have an issue of not having a soft enough pitch or a pitch that goes away from righties or one that goes down. They all have the proper action.”
So what’s been holding Buckel back?
“It comes back to his fastball and the production he gets out of his fastball,” Andrews said.
Buckel, who certainly is a guy to look after as the trade deadline approaches, understands the importance of controlling his fastball.
“You’re not going to get away with as many mistakes up here,” Buckel said. “Fastball command is the base for everything else. It makes your breaking pitches that much better. I’ve got to be able to become more consistent with that. … Right now, I think my other pitches are better than my fastball. I’m more concerned with that than my other pitches. I’ve been working on it in my past few bullpens, and so far I’m having success with it.”