One of the minors’ top breakout arms in 2013, Rockies farmhand Eddie Butler jumped three levels while putting himself squarely on the national prospect radar. Although Butler ranked no. 48 on Baseball Prospectus’ mid-season top 50 prospects list in June, he didn’t enter this season as one of BP’s top 10 Rockies prospects. The 22-year-old was instead listed as a name on the rise, with Jason Parks writing that Butler “should see his prospect status elevate after a good full-season debut in 2013.”
To say that Butler saw his prospect status rise in 2013 would be an understatement. In fact, he’s likely to rank even higher than no. 48 entering next season, and he’s probably the Rockies’ top prospect at present. The former supplemental first-round pick opened this season by posting a 2.07 ERA in 22 starts between Low-A Asheville and High-A Modesto. He finished with a brilliant six-start stint at Double-A Tulsa, yielding just two runs on 13 hits in 27 2/3 innings while walking six and striking out 25.
Butler’s power stuff is perhaps even more impressive than his numbers, as he flashes three plus offerings in his fastball/slider/changeup combo. He also mixes in an occasional curveball and cutter. The right-hander’s fastball drew rave reviews from scouts all season, sitting between 93-98 mph with ground-ball inducing plus-plus life. His changeup and slider––both of which range between 85-90 mph––are also plenty lively and show bat-missing potential.
The Rockies were understandably cautious with Butler in his first full season, limiting him to five innings per start with Tulsa in August. He finished the regular season with 149 2/3 frames and will work a few more in the upcoming Texas League postseason. While Butler’s workload kept him from being a serious September call-up candidate this year, he could certainly make an impact in 2014.
Given the polish Butler showed this season, it’s difficult to believe he lasted until the 46th overall pick in last year’s draft. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound hurler always showed a loose arm and big velocity as an amateur at Radford University, but he has since refined his mechanics, improved his command by leaps and bounds as a result, and seen his secondary stuff tick up––all subjects he covers in the following video interview.
Butler’s slightly unorthodox delivery leads some scouts to believe he’ll ultimately wind up in the bullpen––where he has closer potential––though the majority I’ve spoken to think he shows enough command to stick in a starting role. If Butler sticks, he profiles as a no. 3 starter with a no. 2 ceiling.
While in Frisco for a recent series between the RoughRiders and Drillers, I caught up with Butler to discuss the anatomy of a breakout season. See the hard-throwing prospect in action while he discusses his repertoire, his developing mechanics, and his journey through three affiliates in his first full season.