Of the eight prospects representing the A’s in the Arizona Fall League, Lawrence Butler entered with perhaps the most to prove after injuries limited him to just 84 Minor League games during the regular season. By the end of the AFL, the outfielder certainly stood out.
The biggest improvement the A’s wanted to see from Butler in the six-team league was a fine-tuning of his offensive approach while showing he was capable of playing all three outfield spots. The A's No. 14 prospect did both, cutting down on the strikeouts to post an .833 OPS and lead the Mesa Solar Sox with 15 walks in 19 games played. Defensively, Butler played solely the outfield and impressed with his range and quickness.
The overall performance was enough for the A’s to reward him with an official roster spot. Prior to Tuesday’s deadline to add players who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, Butler and left-hander Hogan Harris were both added to Oakland’s 40-man roster, which protects them from being exposed to other clubs in the upcoming Draft on Dec. 7.
“The Arizona Fall League gave Law the opportunity to add on another 72 at-bats against upper-level pitching,” said A’s assistant general manager Billy Owens. “His plate appearances keep improving with new challenges. Cool chance to be around the best and brightest players in Minor League Baseball. Great barometer to access his skills. It was fun to see Lawrence’s confidence and exuberance on display every day this fall.”
That exuberance earned Butler the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, which has been given out annually since 2004 to honor the former Reds outfielder and is presented to a player that exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership during the AFL.
“That’s a big award,” Owens said. “Winning the Dernell Stenson Award and sharpening his ability this fall raised Law’s profile. Our Atlanta-based scout Jemel Spearman envisioned Lawrence Butler’s success when we drafted him in 2018. Eventually, he’ll join his childhood friend, Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Harris, in the Major Leagues."
“I think this group is as talented as we’ve sent to the Fall League in a while,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “I was down there myself a couple of times. Billy Owens has seen them a lot, and [Double-A manager] Bobby Crosby was managing them, so we got the reports. All three position players -- [Zack] Gelof, Butler, [Denzel] Clarke -- had great performances down there. It’s really exciting to watch what they’ve done. Similarly, Ginn and [Ryan] Cusick missed time during the season. I think J.T.’s command has been outstanding for a guy who didn’t pitch a ton during the year. Cusick has been working on his repertoire. It’s an exciting group to think about making their way to Major League camp and then to Oakland at some point.”