Eddie Butler of the Colorado Rockies has come out of nowhere to be one of the most dominating pitchers in the minor leagues this season. Butler is a 22 year old 6’3” right handed pitcher who was promoted to Double-A on Friday. I personally got a chance to see Butler live at the futures game at Citi Field a few weeks ago and walked away very impressed. I want to go step by step and talk extensively about each and every aspect of what has made Butler so successful so far this season.
Fastball: Butler throws two very different and dominant fastballs. His four-seamer is 94-96 and can be dialed up to 99 in times of need. As is typical of tall right-handers Butler gets fantastic late arm side run on his 4 seamer and his able to throw the pitch with enough weight and command to get a ton of ground balls. His other fastball, a 92-94 mph 2-seamer, may be even more effective. Butler’s 2 seamer is his bread and butter pitch. He often throws the pitch to not only get ahead in counts but also mix up the texture and speeds of his fastballs. The pitch is a plus weapon that most left handers struggle to throw on a regular basis. Both of Butler’s fastballs are plus pitches with the 2 seamer having a chance at a plus-plus grade in the future. Here’s a GIF of it’s nasty movement inside on right handed hitters:
Slider: Butler’s primary off speed pitch is a hard biting 86-88 mph 2 plane slider. At the futures game I had the pitch at plus-plus as it was absolutely dominant and he commanded well. Most scouts I have talked to see the Butler’s slider as more of a 60 grade plus pitch but it will be very effective at the big league level nonetheless. Butler has a great ¾ release for the slider and can snap them off in very similar motion to his 2 seamer. It is not until the last minute that you realize how different the two pitches break onto both left and right handed hitters. Here’s a GIF of that slider in action:
Changeup: Butler’s changeup was his pitch that I had heard the least about going into the futures game. An effective pitch to get right handed hitters it is what separates the dominant young right handed starters in baseball such as Jose Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg from the late inning half specialists who have dominant stuff. I am happy to say that Butler’s changeup impressed me with flying colors. While the pitch will always lag slightly behind his other 3 pitchers and will never be a dominant pitch, I could see it being a plus pitch in the future. He had great deception, velocity and arm movement on the changeup with the one detractor aspect being the confidence level. He seemed to hesitate to throw the changeup until he was sure he was ahead in the count. If Butler can start to mix in that fourth dominating pitch he will be absolutely unhittable at virtually any level.
Attached is a GIF showing Butler’s best changeup of the day. This changeup is a plus-plus pitch with biting late life and a fast and deceiving arm motion. This is the pitch that convinced me Butler has top-notch stuff. Going 1-2-3 like this against a top prospect like Xander Bogaerts was really impressive at the game and displayed each of his three pitches in sequence.
Command/Control and Mechanics: Butler currently has average command and control. He has the ability to mostly throw strikes and at times to throw accurate, quality strikes at any point in the count. As is the case with any tall right handed pitcher who throws from a ¾ slot, Butler needs to be cognizant of losing his release and landing point on the rubber. When Butler loses his ideal release point two things can happen, first he can fall off the 1st base side which causes his command and control to dampen considerably. Second, he can fall off to the 3rd base side which causes his pitches, especially his four seam fastball, to flatten considerably. When this happens Butler loses the plane on his pitchers and becomes more of a fly ball pitcher. He needs to fix this before getting to the offensive friendly Coors Field next season.
Summary: Overall while he does have some room to improve both in the quality of his pitches as well as his overall mechanics, Eddie Butler is one of the best and most promising pitchers in the minor leagues right now. Butler has a chance that all four of his pitches will be at least plus at the major league level. While many may think that his fantasy upside is limited by the thin air of Coors field I think that Butler can get enough sink on both his 2-seam fastball as well as his changeup to get groundballs as well as a ton of strikeouts at the next level. I would rank Butler in my top 20 overall prospects and cannot wait to see him dominate the Texas League for the rest of the season. He is a must-watch prospect.
Charles Kurz is a co-founder of RotoAnalysis and scouting “aficionado.” Look for his work all season long regarding prospects and follow him on Twitter @NoLimits16423!
GIF Credits: http://thegoldensombrero.com/wordpress/archives/6506