Sunday, July 7, 2013

Random Prospect of the Day: Ryan Buchter

Time to once again get to know a random prospect from the system.  In full disclosure, random.org kept giving me the number for guys at rookie ball and I just don't think that's all that much fun.  Then it gave me the number of Kameron Loe.  Not really a prospect.

Ryan Buchter was originally a 33rd rounder out of Highland Regional High School in New Jersey.  The school is not known for its baseball history, only producing one player before and that player never made it to the majors.  In fact, their wikipedia page really doesn't give you much of an impression that they are known for any athletics, though they seem to have a tremendous marching band. 

Buchter signed with the Nationals after graduating from high school in 2005 instead of going to college.  He began his professional career the following year, finishing the season with what could be graciously called an inauspicious start to his post-amateur stage.  He allowed 11 earned runs in 13.2 innings, walking 13 to 12 strikeouts.  He had a little bit more luck in 2007 in his first taste of A-ball with Vermont of the New York-Penn League.  In 20 games, all out of the pen, Buchter posted a 9.7 K/9, but his wildness remained on display as he walked 5.4 per nine, hit six batters in a shade over 30 innings, and uncorked seven wild pitches.  The scouting report seemed to indicate that he had a tremendous left arm, but would need to harness his control to make it to the majors.  He can reach 93 with his fastball and can keep batters off-balanced with a slurve, but without spotting his pitches properly, how can you expect to utilize your skills?

I am guessing that injuries limited Buchter to just 17 games in 2008, four of which came in rookie ball, and he showed more of the same that his 2007 year showed.  After the year, the Cubs acquired Buchter from the Nationals for Matt Avery, a UVA product the Cubs had drafted out of the 2005 draft.  Buchter had his best season to date in 2009, pairing a 11.7 K/9 with a 5.0 BB/9 and a 1.15 WHIP.  The 23 year-old reached AA the following season, pitching 2010 for the Tennessee Smokies.  The results were a considerable step back as his WHIP ballooned to 1.80 in 60 innings, posting his usual strong K/9 rate with a poor BB/9 rate.  He was tapped for a return trip the following season, though he had little luck early on and was demoted to Daytona, the high-A club for the Cubs.  That didn't last long before he was sent to the Braves for Rodrigo Lopez, a 35 year-old who was inked before spring training for depth purposes for the rotation.  I believe he had an opt-out date on his contract so the Braves decided to try to get something for Lopez.

Buchter was immediately sent to the Lychburg Hillcats and saved 15 games for the 'Cats in 2011, ending the year with a 2.23 K/BB rate in a little over 40 innings, an excellant rate for him.  That production prompted the Braves to give Buchter another try at AA and with Mississippi in 2012, Buchter had a bit of an arrival, posting a 2.63 K/BB rate to go with a 1.04 WHIP.  He finished the season with Gwinnett, though he had absolutely no success in his three-week run there.

His 2012 pushed the Braves to send Buchter to the Arizona Fall League where he struck out 14 in 14.2 innings.  However, his control problems remained an issue as he walked nine and hit a pair of batters.  His production this season at Gwinnett has been more of the same.  No one doubts he has an electric arm.  59 K's in 36.2 ING is tremendous, but nearly a walk an inning significantly mutes your expectations. 

With the injuries to the two primary lefties the Braves wanted to employ this season in Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, Buchter had a prime opportunity to get into the mix, but was instead bypassed by Alex Wood.  It was the right move since Wood has more of an ability to spot his pitches.  It's not unheard of for a pitcher to put it together later in his career, but at 26, the window is closing on Buchter.  Lefties will stick around forever, but even they have to throw strikes.  If he can do that more, he has a shot at securing a role in someones bullpen as a LOOGY.  However, it would seem improbable that, unless he finishes with an amazing second half, Buchter has much of a career with the Braves. 

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