Sunday, July 01, 2007

John Buck Begins to Hit Like Royals Had Expected

It seems now like it was another player in another life, but Royals catcher John Buck was once the prized piece in Kansas City's trade of superstar Carlos Beltran.

After two years of disappointment at the plate, Buck, now finds himself with 14 home runs, enough to rank second among American League catchers behind Cleveland's Victor Martinez. At the same time, the right-handed hitting, former seventh round pick is hitting a passable .260 against right-handed pitchers with a more than .500 slugging percentage overall.

Buck may never reach Cooperstown but it's a start.

When the Royals traded Beltran to Houston in a 2004 three-team deal (also acquiring third baseman Mark Teahen from Oakland), Buck was hitting .300 with a .507 slugging mark for Triple A New Orleans. That won the attention of former Royals manager and All Star catcher Tony Pena, who immediately dubbed Buck the team's catcher of the future.

Buck, who will celebrate his 27th birthday when he returns from the All-Star break, is finally living up to it. Look for continued improvement as Buck traditionally has shown tendencies to hit better as the season progresses.

Something of a sleeper, Buck could develop into a top-10 player at his position over the next two or three years, especially if veteran catcher Jason LaRue, who has laid claim to much of Buck's playing time, steps aside in the near future.