Butler is a 22-year old right-handed pitcher from Radford University and was dominant at times in college, but some scouts had questions about his control. So far however, he has been successful as a pro. Last year, Butler lead the Pioneer League with a 2.13 ERA while pitching for the Rockies’ rookie league affiliate, Grand Junction.
This season started with Butler pitching in low-A ball in Asheville, but a 5-1 record and a 1.66 ERA in nine starts earned him a promotion to high-A Modesto. Since his arrival there, he has gone 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 34 strikeouts against just nine walks in 34 innings.
Butler has the rare gift of being able to throw a “power sinker”. He can reach 98 mph while throwing his sinker, despite a relatively small frame at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. The Rockies drafted him in the supplemental round of 2012’s draft primarily based on the upside of that sinker. Simply put, there just are not many people capable of throwing a baseball the way Butler does.
That’s not to say that he will definitely be in the majors soon.
While pitching at Radford and in the low minors, Butler’s exceptional sinker has been enough to dispatch nearly everyone he has come across. But as he attempts to rise up through the ranks, he will need to develop better secondary pitches. Scouting reports for Butler have graded his breaking balls as average at best, and his command of anything other than his sinker has been spotty.
Because of Butler’s occasional command issues, there are questions about whether he will end up as a starter or a reliever. While the Rockies are probably hoping he can develop the consistency to be a starter, a guy with a 98 mph sinker makes for a pretty intriguing closer.
Butler is still probably a few years away from reaching the big leagues, so he has some time to develop his control. If his breaking balls can catch up to his power sinker, then he may have a long career as a starter. If not, he will still have a good chance to be an effective reliever. At the very least, his selection to the U.S. Futures team shows that other people recognize the potential that he has.