H/W: 6'1''. 200 lbs.
DOB: 8/9/1995 (17 years old)
Buckner is a toolsy, athletic outfielder out of North Shore in Galena Park on the east side of Houston, which is generally regarded as a football school. Buckner is one of the rare baseball talents to come out of North Shore, and his projectibility and upside make him one of the more intriguing high school players once you get outside of the top 150 players in this draft. Buckner pitched a good deal in high school and has a great arm, but his future is most likely as an outfielder.
North Shore resides in District 21-5A, the same district my high school alma mater Beaumont West Brook plays in. So, I asked some of my baseball-playing friends from West Brook who played against Buckner his junior and senior years. Time for a Q&A! (Note: answers edited for grammar, length and hyperbole)
The first guy I asked is a friend of mine named Charlie, who played against Buckner in the spring of 2012.
Me: Hey Chuck, you played against Nick Buckner? Tell me everything you know about him.
Charlie: Yeah I played against him. He never hugely impressed me. He was really quick, swung the bat pretty well, and had a pretty good arm. We never tested his arm in the outfield, we respected it a lot. He also pitched and threw mid 80s. I could hit off of him. From what I remember, he had pretty good instincts and good make up. I think people saw some untapped power potential. Pretty lanky kid.
Me: That sounds about right; lot of projection and power potential even though he may not have shown it off in high school.
C: Yeah he didn't show the power potential through huge numbers but the ball jumped off the bat. Definitely could tell he was a talented hitter.
Me: What positions(s) did he play? And did you get the sense that he was the best player on the field?
C: Outfield and pitcher. Not really, he was the best on their side yes, but I would be more afraid to face one of our hitters in the box. But he was the best all around player out there for sure.
The second guy I asked is a younger friend named Zach, who played against Buckner this spring.
Me: Hey Zach, do you remember playing against a Nick Buckner from North Shore this year?
Zach: Yes! Dude is RAW.
Me: Cool, I'm doing a draft write up this guy, what can you tell me about him?
Z: Well he is beautifully built, perfect baseball body type. He's a lefty and touches 90 on the mound. Against us, he threw all seven innings, walked one, struck out SIXTEEN. His breaking pitch (either a slider or curve) was solid. We saw him throw from center once and it was a perfect cannon. He's a very quick guy on the bases too. But in our two games against them, he was 1-6 with 4 strikeouts because he could not hit our lefty pitcher's curve. So bad side is, he didn't look like he could hit lefties. Good side, he has a great arm and speed.
Me: How did he look hitting against y'all?
Z: When our lefty pitched, he did horrible. 0-5 with 4 K's off of him, but hit a double off of our righty. He couldn't touch our lefty though. For what it's worth he kills it during BP. It's scary how hard and far he can hit it. So powerful.
Me: So you think he just couldn't hit the curve from the lefty?
Z: Yep, that's about all he threw.
So there you have it. Buckner is a great athlete and showed it during games; great arm, great game speed, can even pitch a little bit. The hitting potential is there, although it hasn't shown up as much in games as his other tools. I found out he did hit a few home runs during the season, so the power showed up a little bit. For what its worth, he was the district MVP his junior year, but lost it to Deer Park's Josh Pettitte this spring.
Buckner has a very lofty swing from the left-side. He has a lot to work on, but the power potential looks legitimate. However, he struggles against high fastballs, based on the first few pitches in one of the videos below. His bat speed is also solid. He's pretty lanky when you watch him on video, and looks like he could add some weight. All the tools are there for him to turn into a talented hitter, he just has to put it all together with the help of some good coaching.
Remember Javaris Reynolds, who the Astros took in the seventh round two years ago? Buckner reminds me a lot of him, with a little bit more power potential. You know the spiel about a toolsy outfielder with needed development in his swing, and that holds true for Buckner.
It'll take a lot of time, but Buckner could develop into a hitter with a good amount of power, though his swing has some holes in it that will cause him to always strike out a good amount. Make note that Buckner is very young; he won't turn 18 until August, so he has a lot of time to develop his skills.
Projected Draft Round
Buckner's probably too risky to go anywhere before the fifth round. I see him going anywhere between rounds five and eight. As a local kid, I'm sure the Astros have had a good look at him, and he could fit the bill as the high upside, toolsy outfielder they've selected in the past two years in Reynolds and Brett Phillips. Matt Garrioch has him ranked as the 20th overall player in the Texas/Oklahoma region and #199 overall in his draft book.
Will He Sign?
That I don't really know. If he's drafted in the first eight to ten rounds, I would imagine he signs. He's committed to the University of Houston.
Nicholas Buckner - Hitting - www.PlayInSchool.com (via PlayInSchool1)
Nick Buckner (via MLBdraftables)
"Nicholas Buckner is a 2013 OF with a 6-0 200 lb. frame from Pearland, TX who attends North Shore HS. Very strong and athletic build, explosive athlete.. 6.77 runner, good to the ball in the outfield, nice raw arm strength, can improve footwork/throwing fundamentals for better accuracy. Left handed hitter, pull back load, excellent raw bat speed, leans and lifts, upper cut swing plane, doesn't get cheated at the plate, big swings, very good raw hitting tools. High ceiling player with adjustments."- Perfect Game