Name: Joey Butler
Age: 27 (Will be 28 by opening day 2014)
Acquired: Waivers from Rangers, 10/3/2013
Player Profile & Career Summary
Drafted in the 15th Round of the 2006 draft out of the University of New Orleans, Joey Butler is coming off of his third straight full season in AAA. A prototypical right fielder, Butler has a strong arm and good range, but doesn't have the speed to slide into CF and be average there defensively. Which is a shame, since his bat would play much better there than in an outfield corner.
AAA Slash (1562 PA): .300/.392/.468
AAA BB% (3 YR): 9.1%/13.5%/13.7%
AAA K% (3 YR): 29.1%/21.9%/23.6%
AAA BABIP (3 YR): .451/.351/.376
AAA ISO (3 YR): .171/.183/.146
Butler's numbers are indicative of a player of his age at the AAA level. The scouting report notes that he hits left handed pitching better than right handed pitching (nothing strange for a RHH), has modest contact ability with above average gap power, and occasionally can pull a ball out of the yard.
Under the tutelage of Scott Coolbaugh, the hitting coach for Round Rock, Butler improved his walk rates each of the last two seasons while reducing his strikeouts considerably. By being more patient, Butler has been able to draw a few more walks while continuing to lace the ball hard to all fields, leading to above average BABIP and a steady ISO (although it fell off a bit last season).
The question, of course, is whether he can maintain those numbers when transitioning to the big leagues. In projecting his ability to handle MLB pitching, I like Butler's approach: He draws a ton of walks and is a solid doubles hitter, topping 25 doubles in each of his last three seasons at Round Rock. He makes god contact, hitting for a .300 average in his three years at AAA. Major league pitchers aren't going to be able to be aggressive in the zone with Butler, as he can make them pay with a ball in either gap or down the line and leaving the yard every so often.
The biggest issue for Butler? He swings and misses a lot. That makes one wonder if he can keep the strikeouts at bay when facing pitchers with much better stuff. As Coolbaugh noted in this ESPN profile last March, Butler is "vulnerable to certain pitches from the right side" and has a tendency to be over-aggressive and chase pitches out of the zone. Those are traits that will make the transition to the big leagues more difficult for someone whose game is built on walks and solid barrel contact leading to high BABIPs.
MLE projections reflect this: Oliver comes up with a .226/.316/.335 line over 600 PA's in the majors with his strikeout rate climbing to 30.5% and BABIP dropping to .324.
Butler can play both corners of the outfield defensively, but doesn't have the range to be an average defender in centerfield (no word on whether he can play second base). He's a prototypical right fielder with a cannon for an arm, rated 70 on the scouting reports I've seen. Butler has good range and gets a good jump on the ball, so one would project him to be an above average right fielder in MLB.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock for Butler is the sheer amount of talent at his position in the Cardinal farm system. There's currently three solid corner outfielders projected to start at Memphis alone (O'Neill, Piscotty, and the prime jewel Taveras) and all are younger or have higher upside than Butler does. That's going to make it hard to get playing time, unless he can transition to CF -- in which case he runs into James Ramsey and possibly Randal Grichuk by mid-season. Perhaps he should try fielding ground balls at second base, as it might be the only way Butler will get consistent PA's this season if he remains in the Cardinal organization.
I find it hard to believe that Butler remains on the 40 man roster if any of those other outfielders have a good spring. There's just too much high upside talent to give a 28 year old corner outfielder with obvious flaws bunches of PA's at the expense of other, more talented players.
Minimal. Butler is 28 will be repeating AAA for the 4th time. He doesn't profile as an MLB regular and can't play CF well, making him difficult to carry as a 4th outfielder for most clubs. While I think he's hit well enough to get shot to prove himself in the big leagues, I don't see him getting that chance with the Cardinals.
Cut at the end of spring training.