It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Boston’s draft in 2012, general manager Ben Cherington’s first draft with the team, was built around Ty Buttrey. Drafted in the fourth round and signed to a bonus that was more than a million dollars over the slot, the Red Sox crafted much of their first ten rounds around being able to afford Buttrey, drafting a number of college seniors and underslot players.
So, given that the large commitment that the Red Sox made in the 2012 draft, one would expect Buttrey to be one of the more promising names in the Red Sox organization. Baseball America ranked Buttrey as the 38th best draft prospect before the draft, but the Red Sox were able to select him at 151st overall due to a strong commitment to Arkansas. Still, despite Buttrey’s promise as a projectable, hard-throwing right-hander, he has been slow to develop in his first few years in the Red Sox organization and is just now beginning to hit his stride as a prospect.
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Buttrey moved through the minors at a slow, but not entirely unanticipated, pace in his first two seasons as he pitched for the GCL Red Sox after being drafted in 2012 and then had a strong performance with Short Season-A Lowell in 2013. However, he experienced a hiccup last season in his first experience with full-season ball, fighting through injuries to post a meager 6.85 ERA in 11 starts with Low-A Greenville. He was better in a handful of starts for Lowell and the GCL Red Sox, but it was a disappointing year in a season where Buttrey was expected to break out.
But as it turns out, his breakout season was merely delayed one year. Buttrey started off the 2015 season in Greenville, but he was good enough that he only spent four starts there (posting a 2.45 ERA and 22:3 K:BB ratio in 22 innings) before moving on to High-A Salem. It has been more of the same for Buttrey in Salem, as he owns a 2.54 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks in 49.2 innings pitched.
Now 22 years old, Buttrey is really rounding into form as a promising pitching prospect for the Red Sox. He’s still raw and, though his fastball and curve have the potential to be plus offerings, there’s still a ways to go on his change. Also, while Buttrey has come a long way with his command, the 3.1 BB/9 he has in Salem this season is still not quite ideal.
Still, given his age and his success in Salem, it wouldn’t be crazy to see Buttrey move along to Double-A Portland before the end of the season. Buttrey certainly has the physique to be a big league starter (6’6″ and 230 pounds) and it’s finally looking like his arsenal and command might be up to the task. He has the potential of being a mid-rotation starter, though he’s probably still a few years away, and he’s showing that potential in the low minors this season. It could be a couple of years before he reaches Fenway Park, but Buttrey is finally delivering on his high draft bonus and that’s encouraging in its own right.