Scouting Report – Frederick Keys v. Myrtle Beach Pelicans May 3 2012, 11:00 am
I attended the May 3 Frederick Keys (Baltimore Orioles affiliate) game against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Texas Rangers affiliate) in Frederick, MD. The game featured a match-up between Cody Buckel for the Pelicans and Kyle Simon for the Keys.
Prior to the 11am game, I asked Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus (via Twitter) who to look out for on the Myrtle Beach team. I knew that Frederick was devoid of high level talent, so I wanted to focus on a player or two on the Pelicans to see what I could see with my untrained eye. The Professor is always accommodating on Twitter (even to plebeians such as myself) and responded with a list of players (I’ve added first names for clarity. “Cody Buckel, Roman Mendez, Odubel Herrera, Christian Villanueva, Tomas Telis, Jake Skole. Lots of talent.” Armed with this list I was off to Frederick to bake in the late-morning sun.
The Keys stadium sits hard between New Design Road and Mt. Olivet Cemetery (Francis Scott Key is buried there). The placement is a fascinating juxtaposition as minor league stadia see so many careers either head off to bigger challenges or die never to be heard from again. Enough about the setting, let’s look at a couple of players
Cody Buckel is a 19 year old, 6’ 1” 170 lb right-handed pitcher in the Texas Rangers organization. He was drafted by the Rangers in the second round (72nd overall) of the 2010 Rule 4 (amateur) draft out of Royal High School in Simi Valley, CA. He signed for $590,000. His first two seasons in professional baseball were played at the Rookie and Low-A levels and he did not show any issues with those assignments.
Buckel was assigned to High-A Myrtle Beach and came into the 2012 season as the 11th rated prospect in a deep Texas Rangers farm system by Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein. Baseball America ranked him as the Rangers No. 6 prospect after the 2011 season.
During the game, Buckel threw anywhere from 71 to 91 miles per hour (on the scoreboard radar) with his fastball seeming to sit in the high 80s, touching 90-91 at times when he needed it. He breezed through the Keys lineup for seven innings. He seemed to tolerate base runners only when he bored of breezing through the lineup. He allowed these runners so that he could show off other skills such as a pickoff move (to nab Tyler Kolodny in the second inning). Or to display his ability to get ground balls to double up that runner he granted access to first base (as he did twice in his seven innings).
The only potential wart arose during back-to-back at bats with Aaron Baker (a 6’ 2” 220 lb first baseman). In the fourth, Buckel went 71, 87 and 91 mph to set Baker down on three pitches. Baker came back up in the sixth and it looked like Buckel was going to try the exact same sequence. Baker got down 0-2 and then pulled an 86 mph pitch into right field for a single. Baker looked like he made an adjustment and Buckel thought (was hoping?) that Baker would not.
Buckel looks like a boy, but carried himself as a man on this day. The Keys had no answers for the questions he posed and Buckel seemed to know they would not. I imagine the Rangers will leave him at this level until the All-Star break and then reevaluate his assignment. I could see him end the year at AA. If he continues to progress, he could see Arlington in September 2014.
As I noted, the Frederick roster at the time had very little in the way of “prospecty” goodness (Dylan Bundy is there now so that statement is no longer factual). However, there were a few other interesting players on the day.
Kyle Simon: Simon started for the Keys and looks all the part of a power right-hander standing 6’ 5” and weighing 225 pounds. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2011 out of the University of Arizona and signed for $235,000. He threw 16 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in 2011 at Low-A and A and put up solid numbers. He was the 19th rated prospect in the Orioles organization by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season.
His 2012 has not been quite as successful as his short stint in the bullpen at the end of 2011 was. He was the antithesis on this day of Buckel with runners on. In the game, Simon worked quickly and relatively efficiently until a runner reached base. Then, his entire process changed, he labored and looked visibly flustered paying too much attention to runners on base. Moreover, he could not get the ground ball he needed when he needed it. He’s going to need to perform with runners on base in order to develop into a useful pitcher.
Ryan Berry: When I first saw Berry walking around the Frederick bullpen, I thought he was a coach. He had an “old” look to him. He looked like a guy stuck in the style of another generation, which is to say he looked like Val Kilmer in Wonderland. Then, he began to warm up in the bullpen and I realized that he was actually on the active roster. For the facial hair alone, he is a prospect.
Berry was signed out of Rice University in 2009 for a higher than “slot” amount of $417,600 for this ninth round pick of the Baltimore Orioles. The 23-year old was rated as the No. 15 prospect in the Orioles system prior to the 2012 season by Baseball America. Berry got in for the final inning and showed of a herky-jerky delivery with a bit of deception. However, that deception seems to be his only tool and I’m not sure he’s much more than a minor league reliever.
Vincent DiFazio: The 26-year old catcher is clearly not a prospect, but the Keys PA announcer certainly took notice of him by playing the opening music from the Sopranos as he walked to the plate for an at bat. He struck out on three pitches during one at bat (they all looked like breaking balls) and attacked the visitor’s dugout with aplomb afterward. He did hit cleanup for the Pelicans for this early morning tilt, but I imagine his development has stalled.
Jake Skole: The 6’ 1” 190 lb Skole was the first round pick (15th overall) in 2010 by the Texas Rangers out of a Georgia high school. He signed for signed for $1,557,000 He was rated as the No. 24 prospect in the Rangers organization by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season. Skole did not show much at the plate and seemed fooled quite often especially on what looked like breaking balls. He did make an effort to make contact at times seeming to “sell-out” to put bat to ball. I’d need to see him again to see if this was just a poor day at the dish.
I am not a scout and my baseball career fizzled out over three days of tryouts in my freshman year of high school. I was the classic all-run no-hit player. I do not have the eyes to see everything that a scout can see or that a player who has played at a high level can see. With that in mind, take the above as an attempt by a rank amateur to evaluate a prospect or two. Let me know your thoughts and thanks for reading.