Former top pitching prospect Eddie Butler is now a Chicago Cub. After coming over in a trade, the 25-year-old joins a list of potential starting pitchers who might be part of a six-man rotation merry-go-round.
This fits the Cubs’ MO of acquiring pitchers from the Island of Misfit Arms. Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon, and Mike Montgomery, were all more likely to be out of MLB than significant contributors to a World Series champion team at one point or another. Any time the Cubs acquire a pitcher with a repertoire formerly described as electric by scouts, I pay attention. This move certainly has my attention.
Butler throws five pitches, relying mostly on a four seamer, sinker, and slider, while occasionally mixing in changeups and curves.
On the surface, Butler’s numbers look atrocious. In 159.1 career innings, he owns a 6.50 ERA, 5.09 FIP, and 5.06 SIERA, all of which are influenced by a weak 5.31 K/9, 3.95 BB/9, and 18.1% HR/FB. Simply put, Butler doesn’t miss bats and does miss the catcher’s glove. But if you squint just right, your fovea might center on interesting peripherals.
The first attribute of Butler’s that caught my attention was his sinker velocity. Although some suggested that he lost velocity because of a few shoulder problems, I don’t actually see the data to back up such a claim. In fact, he exhibited the highest velocity of his career just last year.
In addition to stellar sinker velocity, Butler’s changeup looks like a carbon copy of his sinker up until it reaches home plate, where it drops off the table. And the 7.74 inches of tail generated on his change is nearly identical to his sinker movement of 7.79 inches. Below is a change up on the left and a sinker on the right, and I even had a hard time differentiating the two.
Butler can also throw heavy sliders to batters, and heavy is no exaggeration. Only 7% of MLB sliders were thrown with greater velocity than Butler’s last year.
Yet, despite a changeup and sinker that resemble one another and a slider with midichlorian-esque force, he hasn’t put it all together. Enter Chris Bosio and the Cubs developmental team. We know Butler already has a unique pitch repertoire and induces plenty of grounders (2015: 50.0%; 2016: 45.8%), but perhaps the Cubs coaching staff can help him to hone his command, pitch sequencing, and health. Wouldn’t be the first time Bosio sprinkled his wizard magic on a former top prospect.