Height 5-10, Weight 175, B/T: R/R, DOB: 4/3/1987
2010 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: N/A
Cody Puckett is looking like a nice value acquisition for the Reds. He has good athleticism, which makes him intriguing. His blend of speed and power effectively lifts his prospect ceiling. Despite being a college prospect, he's still rather raw in some aspects of the game, which gives him a lower floor. Ultimately, his future as a prospect will be determined by a battle between his offensive upside and defensive downside.
Collegiate Career and Draft Position
Puckett played three seasons for Cal State Dominguez Hills, showing significant linear improvement with each passing year.
As a freshman, Puckett stepped right into the lineup, playing 47 games and logging 182 ABs. He handled the bat well, posting a .308/.332/.456 slash line with 11 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homeruns, and a 26/8 K/BB ratio. He also swiped 5 bases in 7 attempts. As a freshman, Puckett didn't flash any plus speed, power, or on-base skill, but he certainly held his own.
During his sophomore season, Puckett played in 52 games and collected 214 ABs. During that time, he posted a stellar slash line of .313/.346/.551 with 18 doubles, 0 triples, 11 homeruns, and a 31/11 K/BB ratio. He also swiped 6 bases in 6 attempts. In his second season, the biggest improvement in his game was in the power department.
As a junior, Puckett hit .337/.462/.644 with 11 doubles, 0 triples, 17 homeruns, and a 33/42 K/BB ratio. His production was impressive and another positive is that he avoided any significant platoon split, hitting righthanders at a .335 clip and southpaws at a .341 clip. He also began to effectively utilize his speed, as his stolen base total jumped up to 26 in 29 attempts. He followed up his power improvement as a sophomore with significant improvement in his ability to control the strike zone. As a junior, his walk rate jumped up substantially, which could have been partially attributable to pitchers fearing his more powerful bat, but hindsight reveals it to be legitimate improvement that he carried with him to the professional ranks. Ultimately, his junior year represented a big step forward and one that caught the eye of professional scouts.
At least a pair of those eyes were in the employ of the Reds organization, as they selected Puckett in the 8th round of the 2008 draft with the 239th overall pick. While Puckett played primarily shortstop in college, the Reds felt his range and glove were better suited for a less taxing position.
Puckett spent the 2010 season at two different stops in the minors. He started out and spent the vast majority of his time at high-A Lynchburg. For the Hillcats, the 23-year old Puckett hit to the tune of .277/.350/.493/.843 in 542 plate appearances. He posted a 124/45 K/BB ratio to go along with a robust 40 doubles, 4 triples, and 18 homers. Once again, he flashed good speed and good instincts on the bases, swiping 17 bases in 21 attempts (81% success rate). He lashed linedrives at a rate of 19%, which more than supports his .277 batting average. In fact, he probably deserved a few more hits than he got.
After a stellar season in high-A, the Reds promoted him to double-A for 12 plate appearances. In that short stint, he collected 6 hits and a slash line of .500/.500/.667/1.167. He ripped line drives to the impressive tune of 36%. Obviously, far too small of a sample size to mean much of anything, but it was a nice start that he'll have a chance to build on in 2011.
Overall, it was a nice season for Puckett, as he flashed a well-rounded offensive game defined by a solid blend of power and speed.
Puckett hits from an open, slightly wider than shoulder-width stance with a high back elbow. He holds his hands in front of his right shoulder and fairly far away from his body. There is a school of thought that holds that the farther away from the body a hitter holds his hands, the less control over the bat he may have. So, Puckett's pre-pitch stance doesn't quite have him in proper hitting position, but before the pitch is delivered he gets into good position.
First, his stride operates to close up his stance, as it includes a move in towards homeplate. His stride closes and cocks his hips, which enables him to generate load in the swing. In tandem with his stride, Puckett draws his hands back and in closer to his body, which brings them into proper hitting position and gives him better control over the bat.
When Puckett fires the swing, he doesn't get cheated. He has a compact swing and a direct swing path with a slight uppercut that generates good loft on the ball. And, while he doesn't have a big frame, he generates impressive power for his size with good bat speed. However, the power he generates at times comes at a cost.
Puckett's swing involves strong hand action and upper body rotation. Occasionally, the effort he puts into the swing causes him to spin off the ball, as his shoulder rotation occasionally causes his front shoulder to fly open and his swing to flatten out. When that happens, his front foot also opens up to disperse the rotational momentum.
Due to his smaller size, Puckett lacks much physical projection to his game. However, that shouldn't serve as much of a detriment to his game, as he already generates plus power.
Overall, Puckett has a solid swing that generates plus power. Despite his power swing, he does a nice a job making consistent, hard contact. So far, strikeouts have not been a significant problem, but he'll need to continue making contact against more advanced pitching. Additionally, he controls the strike zone well, as his shorter stature gives him a smaller strike zone to protect.
Here is a look at Puckett in action, courtesy of DOAsaturn on youtube:
Defensive Skills and Positional Value
Puckett is a good athlete, but has struggled with his glove work at second base. However, his bat profiles much better at that position, so he'll be given every opportunity to prove his ability to handle the position or play his way off it.
In 2010, Puckett once again spent the vast majority of his time at second base, but did log some time in the outfield. However, during 239 games at second in his minor league career, Puckett grades out as -13 runs below average under the Total Zone fielding metric.
Additionally, he not only struggles to reach balls, but also has difficulty converting those balls he does reach into outs. The strength and bulk that effectively power his swing somewhat work against him in the field, as his actions and hands are stiff and unforgiving. If he can't smooth out his glove work, then he'll have to slide down the defensive spectrum to the hot corner or a corner outfield spot. If that happens, then his bat becomes much less interesting.
Puckett's nice collection of tools drive his offensive game, which ultimately drives his overall value as a prospect. He's an offense-first prospect, but ultimately he may have a middle infield bat and a corner position glove, a combination that rarely portends well for the future. Still, if he can make improvements on offense, his bat will play at the offense-first positions, while defensive improvements will make his stay at a premier defensive position much more viable. Regardless, some improvement must be made for him to become a legitimate option as an MLB starter.
If no such improvement is made, then Puckett's future may be that of an offensive minded utility player. A player who, in limited duty, can handle the corner outfield and infield spots. His blend of power and speed is intriguing and gives him a respectable ceiling. Ultimately, he'll go as far as his bat and athleticism will take him. For now, they take him up to #24 on the list.