MLB.com released its annual prospect rankings earlier this week. In order to find Lawrence Butler, you have to creep all the way down to No. 11 on the A’s list.
The way he’s been playing in Arizona, you wouldn’t know it.
The 22-year-old outfielder is in the midst of a scintillating spring training where he has emerged as the early star of camp. Through Tuesday’s 9-3 win over the Diamondbacks, Butler leads the A’s in batting average (.571), hits (8), RBIs (7), on-base percentage (.647) and slugging (1.143) among hitters with at least 10 at-bats. He’s got three doubles, a triple and a dinger so far.
Butler has also played a slick outfield and made a few highlight-worthy catches. And he’s done it in style, his helmet flying off around the basepaths while rocking a headband and those huge Viper shades.
Last week, I put together a quick highlight reel of his afternoon against the Royals, when he made a diving catch in right field and hustled on a groundball to center to reach second on a double. Butler quote-tweeted it and said he still feels slept on.
Still feel 😴 on https://t.co/oRbxmMtC3W
— Law (@itslaw1) March 3, 2023
At least he’s got the attention of his skipper.
“He’s fun,” Kotsay said, via MLB.com. “He’s got the tools. It’s taken him a little while to put it together. Any time you’re a high school guy, it takes a little while to get acclimated. He’s big, physical and mature now. He’s got the tools to play here.”
Butler spent last season at High-A Lansing, slashing .270/.357/.468 with 11 homers, 41 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 40 walks and 109 strikeouts. His season got derailed by an arm injury in early July that sidelined him for more than six weeks. Since then, he’s been on a tear, as noted by Melissa Lockard of The Athletic.
Because the injury cut so much into his games played for last season, Butler’s cold April last season has obscured nationally just how big a breakout he has had over the last two seasons, IMO. And almost everyone struggled in the MWL last April.
— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) March 6, 2023
Traditional logic says Butler will likely start at Double-A Midland this year, but if he keeps this up, can he skip a level and go straight to Triple-A Las Vegas? Lockard is the foremost authority on the A’s minor league system so I asked for her opinion.
“It’s possible he starts in Vegas,” Lockard wrote in a text. “But looking at how many more veteran outfielders likely to be in Triple-A, my guess is he will start in Midland with a potential midseason promotion.”
In the A’s first round of roster cuts on Sunday, outfielder Cal Stevenson was already optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. Other Four-A player types, like Conner Capel and Brent Rooker, might end up in Las Vegas too.
A sixth-round pick out of Westlake high school in Atlanta, Butler doesn’t turn 23 until July. There’s no rush to bring him up, but he could be knocking on the door in no time.
“I think a late-season promotion like Shea Langeliers had last year is definitely possible for him,” Lockard texted.
Considering 25-year-old Langeliers and 22-year-old infielder Jordan Diaz made their debuts last year, and other top prospects like infielder Zack Gelof and catcher/first baseman Tyler Soderstrom could get called up to the bigs this season, The New Oakland Era could get its feet wet in 2023 before breaking through in 2024.