A's Butler continues torrid stretch in Fall League

October 19th, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. – From the first pitch that he saw Tuesday night, Mesa outfielder was locked in. The No. 14 A’s prospect walloped a triple to the right-center-field gap in the top of the first, showcasing all at once his exciting blend of extra-base hit pop and speed on the basepaths. In all, he collected three RBIs and reached base three times in a 6-3 Solar Sox win over the Desert Dogs at Camelback Ranch.

“When I was younger, my [youth] coach always told us, ‘Be ready for pitch one. So if you get a fastball, don’t miss it,’” Butler said.

There hasn’t been much that has gotten by Butler during the first two and a half weeks of Fall League action. His 12 RBIs rank him second on the circuit through action Tuesday, as he has hit the ground running with a .321/.432/.714 slash in nine contests.

One of the fastest risers through the Oakland system coming out of the pandemic-cancelled 2020 campaign, Butler has tapped into a power source in his 6-foot-3 frame. While his slugging percentage this season at High-A Lansing (.468) was slightly below what he compiled across two levels last year (.504), he saw his wRC+ (129) and line-drive rate (25.4%) rise.

“I really just shortened my swing, just tried to make contact more because I’m a bigger guy, so I don’t need to swing hard,” Butler said. “[I just need to] make contact and let everything else handle itself.”

If there is a counterbalance to Butler’s offensive upside, it’s the swing-and-miss element. He struck out in 35.8% of his at-bats with Lansing, an aspect that the lefty-swinging 22-year-old is unperturbed by. After all, it’s a trade-off for the offensive production that has seen him accrue an OPS of at least .840 in his Single-A and High-A stops over the past two years.

An arm injury wiped out nearly six weeks of action for Butler during the summer, making him a prime candidate to garner additional plate appearances during the Fall League. Upon his return to play, he showcased some rust, but he concluded the regular season with a four-hit, two-homer outing, setting the stage for his time with Mesa.

The Solar Sox, which boast prospects from the A’s, Cubs, Marlins, Rays and Yankees, are a tight-knit, fun-loving group that delivers constant chatter and dugout encouragement. Butler and his ebullient personality are at the heart of it, as has been on display throughout the fall season.

Prior to 2022, Butler had primarily manned first base as a pro. While the infield could be an option at the big league level, he has taken to the outfield with aplomb, logging eight assists across 40 starts at Lansing this year. He has brought just his outfielder’s glove to the Fall League thus far, attempting to hone another vital aspect of his game.

“I love the outfield,” Butler said. “It’s fun, you can make a lot of plays, you can change the game, help the team win in a lot of ways. I’m having fun in the outfield.”

While Butler starred with the bat Tuesday, No. 20 A’s prospect Mason Miller kicked off the victory on the hill. Consistently hitting triple-digits with his heater, the righty limited Glendale to one hit and one run over his three frames. He ripped off multiple impressive sliders, including on his first strikeout of Matt McLain (CIN 5).