Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 26

Cincinnati definitely had an inside track on prospect Sean Buckley, the son of their Scouting Director Chris. Injuries have caused an up-and-down minor league career over the past four seasons, but strong numbers at Bakersfield last year indicate that he’s ready to resume moving his power bat up to the higher levels of the Reds system.

Sean Buckley is one of the more enigmatic prospects in the Cincinnati system. Being the son of Reds scouting director Chris Buckley has gained him some extra attention. That was not the Buckley’s original plan, instead they felt it better that Sean work his way through another organization. However those plans changed on draft day in 2011 when others convinced the senior Buckley that the big, athletic prospect out of St. Petersburg College had too much value to pass with a sixth round pick.

After that he put up some gaudy numbers at Billings over the short season including 14 homers, causing some to project him the top prospect in the system for raw power. He came out of the gate slowly and played through some injuries at Dayton in 2012 but improved performance over the season made him a candidate to put up some more big power numbers at Bakersfield in 2013. However that didn’t happen because he spent all but six games on the disabled list.

Actually Buckley has missed action to various injuries going back to his collegiate days. Some of them were not suffered on the field, like an unusual reaction to an antibiotic, and they might have felt that Dayton was a good place to get him back on track at the beginning of last season. After returning to the Dragons he gave good reason for concern when he struggled. Normally a sub-.200 average does not merit a promotion, but he must have shown something to indicate readiness. Whatever it was materialized on the field at Bakersfield when he slashed .312 AVG/.362 OB/.511 SLG/11 HR in games.

Because of time missed to injury Buckley was still old for the California League. Now he’s 25 years old and ready for an AA debut. The first item on his agenda is to prove his last half season was legit instead of a creation of younger competition. Should he succeed it would likely earn a crack at the AAA level before the end of the upcoming season. One thing that would help his case is continued development on plate discipline. At Bakersfield his strikeouts rate was around 21% of his plate appearances. That number isn’t too bad for a power hitter, what makes it more interesting is improvement compared to earlier seasons. On the other hand his walk rate (5% of PA) has declined as he moved up the system which is a trend he could reverse as selectivity develops further.

Periphery stats the plate isn’t the only question that Buckley needs to answer. There is a bit of uncertainty where he’ll play in the field. Originally he was drafted as a third-baseman but his glove was rough at Billings. He moved across the infield the next year to provide solid defense at first, and there have been a handful of games in left field along the way too. Actually he hasn’t needed a glove he past couple of years while all his time has been at designated hitter, a position unneeded by NL teams. Versatility can be very helpful to a prospect’s move up the system, especially one looking to make an MLB debut in a utility position. Buckley has the arm to merit another look at the hot corner and could establish himself as a reliable corner infielder.

Still, the main attraction of this prospect is power and the right-hander’s ability to both pull and drive the ball to the opposite field. If that is cultivated a place will be found to get his bat in the lineup somewhere. The best thing he can do for now is stay healthy. Injuries might have postponed his rise up the system, but he’s definitely still a keeper. 2015 could be a big year for the slugger to make a significant move up this list one year from now.

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