Eddie Butler has been showing up on my radar this season in part due to his spot near the top of the strikeout leader board for the Low-A level. News came down on Thursday that he was being promoted to High-A Modesto after just nine starts at Low-A. Butler was ranked as the 85th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America, but could move quickly up prospect rankings with his performance so far, so let's take a look.
Butler was drafted out of high school in the 35th round by Texas, but did not sign and opted to attend Radford University instead. His first two seasons appeared a bit lackluster based on the stat line, but he really shined his junior year, posting a 95:23 K:BB ratio in 98 innings pitched, a 2.20 ERA and just 78 hits allowed. The Rockies took Butler in the supplemental first round with a pick they gained from losing Mark Ellis to free agency, and signed him to a bonus of $1 million dollars.
The Rockies sent Butler to the offensive paradise of Grand Junction, where he pitched well, striking out 55 and walking just 13 in 67+ innings pitched. At Low-A Asheville this season, Butler has made nine starts, striking out 51, walking 25, and allowing a ridiculously low 25 hits in 54 innings pitched. Following the season, his place on top prospect lists was a mixed bag, as BA and Minor League Ball had him as the #6 prospect in the Rockies' system, while BP and Purple Row both had him outside their top 10.
The report on Butler starts with his fastball, which was voted as the best in the system by Baseball America after last year. The pitch sits in the mid-90s, and gets a ton of sink on it. That sink has helped him to a ridiculous 4.84 GO/AO rate so far this year, which will serve him well as he progresses through the system. He also features a work-in-progress changeup and an average slider, although there are questions about whether the changeup will be good enough to continue in the starting rotation. If it isn't, Butler would likely be moved into a relief role at some point in the future.
So then, what could he be? It's hard to get too excited about a pitching prospect in the Rockies system given how poorly they've done at developing them for success at Coors Field in the past. That said, a pitcher with the skills Butler has shown so far could definitely break from that mold. Add in that he's been striking out nearly a batter per inning as a professional, and you could have a very nice fantasy starting pitcher down the line. The California League is going to be a good test for Butler, as he will have to keep the ball down when he pitches in the offense havens of the southern half of the league if he wants to have any success. Overall, he's put together a very good first third of the season, and wonder if we could be looking at a top 100 prospect should the rest of his season stay in line with the start of it.
Minor League Ball