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Rangers' Deglan, Buckel to join Aces
Former high Rangers draft picks looking to step forward
09/28/2014 6:47 PM ET
Cody Buckel made 34 appearances for Advanced A Myrtle Beach in 2014.
Cody Buckel made 34 appearances for Advanced A Myrtle Beach in 2014. (Roger Peterson/MiLB.com)

When top Texas Rangers draft picks Kellin Deglan and Cody Buckel make their way down under for the commencement of the fifth Australian Baseball League season, both imported players have something to prove and will be looking to do it with the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces. 

Beyond his quest to help his new team claim its first Claxton Shield victory, former first-round selection Deglan is hoping to build on a year he split between the Hickory Crawdads roster in the South Atlantic League and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans lineup in the Carolina League.

"I set a career-high in home runs and RBI this year, had a strong season, and I caught well throughout the year," the 22-year-old Canadian catcher said. "Really for me going forward, pitch selection is going to be big. I want to go over there, be more disciplined, put together good at-bats, and come away feeling good, and come in ready to compete for a spot in spring training."

Between the two levels he played at during the regular season overseas, the former Canadian Junior National Team member started to show the power Texas drafted him for out of high school, with 16 home runs, 24 doubles and two triples in 101 games to go along with 68 RBI and 49 runs scored. 

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound backstop continues to gain praise around various baseball circles for his defensive prowess and will also be an asset for the Aces behind the dish. 

"My primary focus going over there is to get better in all aspects of my game," Deglan said. "Mainly hitting-wise, I want to keep building on my season over here and just try to be more disciplined at the plate, because the more strikes I swing at and the more balls I take, the better off I'm going to be."

Buckel is looking to build off of a strong finish to his most recent season with the Class-A Advanced Pelicans. Though the second-rounder's final numbers this year see him with a 5-6 record and a 5.73 ERA over 59 2/3 innings in 34 appearances with 73 strikeouts, he regained the form the Rangers organization had seen early in his career to end the year. 

In his last 10 appearances for Myrtle Beach, after two years with time in Double-A and downward movement in the organization after questions about his mental game, Buckel posted a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings with 30 strikeouts, that number inflated by one four-run outing. Without that particular game, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound righty allowed just two runs over 16 2/3 innings, good for a 1.08 mark to cap off his successful end to the year. 

"This season was definitely a season to find myself again," Buckel said. "After 2013 and what I went through, I was really happy to finish the season the way I did. I hope to continue to find my old self down in Australia. 

"I feel a lot better mentally than I did at the beginning of the season and physically I feel great. I am very excited to see what happens down in Australia and I know it will be an experience I will never forget."

Both Rangers prospects already have a connection to Melbourne, having run into Aces new skipper Tommy Thompson during the manager's time with the Winston-Salem Dash in the Carolina League, Deglan making his decision after their interaction. 

"When I was in Myrtle Beach we were playing against Winston-Salem and their manager Tommy Thompson came up to me and told me he wanted me to play for him in Australia," Deglan said. "I thought about it for a few days and decided I wanted to go over there and play for him…I ran it by the Rangers and they were in full support of me going."

Texas originally brought the idea to Buckel, but he too ran into Thompson almost immediately thereafter and it came up again. Though he doesn't know much about the circuit in the southern hemisphere, the native of California is looking forward to the experience. 

"I found out about the Australian Baseball League through the Rangers organization," Buckel said. "They approached me with the offer and said I could get some extra innings down there and continue to improve on how I finished the season. 

"It's funny because the day after the Rangers brought it up, we happened to be playing Thompson's team and he asked me if I would be interested. I haven't talked to anyone personally about their [ABL] experience but I have heard nothing but great things."

Melbourne's newest power-hitting lefty catcher has some newfound familiarity with the league, after talking to Toronto Blue Jays farmhand and fellow Canadian Michael Crouse, who spent last season with the Canberra Cavalry and solidified the idea that Deglan was making a great off-season decision in heading to Australia. 

"I talked to Mike Crouse about it a little bit and he said he had a great time over there," Deglan said. "He said it was awesome, and a beautiful country, and to have a great time." 

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributing writer to TheABL.com.au. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis. This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.