FutureSox Prospect Rankings
- #24 - Midseason 2017
- #25 - Preseason 2018
- 2017 Carolina League Midseason All-Star (Wilmington)
- Best Change-up in White Sox system, preseason 2018 (Baseball America)
Puckett signed for a cool $1.2 million when he was selected in the 2nd round (67th overall) in 2016. This Pepperdine product was ranked the fifth best prospect in a somewhat thin Royals system coming into 2017 according to Baseball America. Any athlete would likely appreciate what a privilege that alone would be, but for Puckett that appreciation may run a little deeper. In 2011, he suffered an epidural hematoma from a car accident and spent weeks in a coma while in high school. He had been a promising prep quarterback, but the off-field incident ended his football career. In his age 21 draft year debut across rookie and Low-A, Puckett booked a combined 3.68 ERA helped by keeping batters off the basepaths (7.7 H/9, 2.3 BB/9), but didn't strike out a ton of guys (6.9 K/9). In 2017 he went to High-A and the Carolina League where, primarily with Wilmington (20 of 25 games), his core numbers and peripherals all ballooned a bit. That's bad for the ERA and walk/hit totals, but his K-rate jumped to 7.9 per 9. 2018 was essentially a lost year for Puckett, who suffered from elbow issues and never saw a regular season game.
Since his draft year, Puckett's prospect stock seems to have dropped back a bit, and a missed year now worsens things. By mid-season 2017 he was listed as the number 13 prospect in the Kansas City system according to MLB Pipeline, and he didn't make their mid-season top ten according to BA either. His success to this point has been more about "pitchability" than raw stuff. Spanning reports as noted above, his fastball runs anywhere from 89 to 94, and he excels at locating it. His best pitch is likely his change-up, described as plus by BA. He also throws a curveball that is a little further behind in development. At 6'4" and a listed 200 pounds, Austin Joseph Puckett has a good pitcher's frame, creates downward plane and works the lower part of the zone efficiently. If he can come back with a healthy season in 2019, he will stay on the radar.
Major League Outlook: Back-end starter or middle reliever
ETA: Late 2020