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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 38: A.J. Puckett

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We hope one day to see the potential that pushed the White Sox to pluck him from the Royals

Hard luck: Puckett now has been sidelined for the majority of his time in the White Sox organization.
Kim Contreras/South Side Sox

A.J. Puckett
6´4´´
200 pounds
Throws: Right
Age: 23
2018 SSS Top Prospect Rank: 20
SSS rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 10

Puckett is an interesting story. He was a promising two-sport athlete in high school before a car accident left him in a medically-induced coma for two weeks to slow his blood loss. After that accident, he made a a full recovery and went to Pepperdine University, where he was the West Coast Conference pitcher of the year in 2016 after fashioning the third-longest (45 23 -inning) scoreless streak in NCAA Division I history. All Puckett did in his junior season was pitch 99 innings over 14 starts, posting an incredible 1.27 ERA and 0.92 WHIP; he allowed just 65 hits and 26 walks (2.36 BB/9) while fanning 95 batters (8.61 K/9). As a result of his efforts, the Kansas City Royals selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft, signing him to a $1.2 million bonus.

For the AZL Royals and Lexington (Royals A-affiliate) immediately after the draft, Puckett held his own in 13 starts, with a combined 3.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP and respectable .231 OBA and 2.30 BB/9, but his strikeouts were down at 6.90 K/9. For the Royals A+ team (Wilmington) in 2017, he was posting a 3.90 ERA and 1.41 WHIP through July 30 when he was traded to the White Sox for outfielder Melky Cabrera, in the Royals’ ill-fated run at the playoffs. Puckett struggled a bit at hitter-friendly Winston-Salem in his five starts, as he posted a 4.28 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over 27 13 innings. In those innings, Puckett surrendered 35 hits (.327 OBA) and five walks (1.65 BB/9) while striking out 21 (6.91 K/9).

Puckett began 2018 as the 23rd-ranked prospect in the White Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, and was slated to begin with Birmingham. However, due to an ailing elbow, he missed the entire season (just like Andre Davis, the other player acquired in the Cabrera deal).

Puckett, when healthy, is more about pitchability than power. His best assets are his tumbling changeup, a legitimate plus pitch, and his advanced command. His fastball usually ranges from 90-94 mph with some run and sink, and his curveball can be an average third offering at times, but lacks consistency.

Like fellow highly-touted righthander Dane Dunning, Puckett arrived in Glendale this spring to try working through the elbow pain that sidelined him in 2018. And like Dunning, Puckett ultimately opted for Tommy John surgery. He’ll miss the 2019 season as well.


2019 South Side Sox Top 100 Prospects

38. A.J. Puckett, RHSP
39. Amado Nuñez, 2B
40. Jordan Guerrero, LHSP
41. Tyler Frost, RF
42. Danny Mendick, SS
43. Yeyson Yrizarri, SS
44. Kade McClure, RHSP
45. Luis Mieses, CF
46. Ti’quan Forbes, 3B
47. Thyago Vieira, RHRP
48. Corey Zangari, 1B
49. Yermin Mercedes, C
50. Anderson Comas, RF
51. Gunnar Troutwine, C
52. Codi Heuer, RHSP
53. Andrew Perez, LHRP
54. Josue Guerrero, LF
55. Jacob Lindgren, LHRP
56. Ryan Cordell, CF
57. Joel Booker, LF
58. Bennett Sousa, LHRP
59. Blake Battenfield, RHSP
60. Caberea Weaver, CF
61. Matt Foster, RHRP
62. Tate Blackman, 2B
63. Hunter Schryver, LHRP
64. Romy González, CF
65. Carlos Perez, C
66. Trey Michalczewski, 3B
67. Taylor Varnell, LHSP
68. John Parke, LHSP
69. Mike Morrison, RHRP
70. Zach Remillard, 3B
71. Luis Martinez, RHSP
72. Zach Lewis, RHSP
73. José Nin, RHRP
74. Colton Turner, LHSP
75. Jhoandro Alfonso, C
76. Ramon Beltre, 2B
77. Charlie Tilson, CF
78. Hunter Kiel, RHRP
79. Jason Bilous, RHSP
80. Nick Johnson, RHRP
81. Danny Dopico, RHRP
82. Harvin Mendoza, 1B
83. Logan Sowers, RF
84. Maiker Feliz, 3B
85. Brayan Herrera, RHSP
86. Craig Dedelow, LF
87. Wilber Pérez, RHSP
88. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
89. Johan Dominguez, RHRP
90. Mitch Roman, 2B
91. Ty Greene, C
92. Tanner Banks, LHSP
93. Jake Elliott, RHRP
94. Kevin Escorcia, LHRP
95. Luis Rodriguez, RHSP
96. Ian Dawkins, LF
97. Victor Diaz, RHRP
98. Travis Moniot, LF
99. Will Kincanon, RHRP
100. Brian Clark, LHRP


More information on South Side Top Prospects.