From the Minor League Ball mailbag (well, actually a direct Twitter message but you know what I mean):
“Ty Buttrey, future closer?”——-Bobby
Let’s take a look.
Ty Buttrey was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round in 2012 from high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had command issues as a starter and moved to the bullpen in 2017, then was traded to the Los Angeles Angels this past July in the Ian Kinsler deal.
Buttrey was drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round in 2012 from high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. General rawness with some command troubles slowed his progress and he also missed time in 2014 after breaking his hand in frustration at a bad play. Erratic as a starter, he moved to the bullpen in 2016 and improved. He’s having a fine 2018 season in Triple-A, posting a 2.25 ERA in 44 innings for Pawtucket with a 64/14 K/BB.
Buttrey is 25 years old, listed at 6-6, 230. He had some problems maintaining consistent velocity as a starter but in the bullpen his fastball plays well, 94-97 MPH with peaks at 99. He has a good change-up but his slider is below average and lack of a reliable breaking ball was part of the reason he didn’t last as a starter. His command has improved significantly over the last year and he’s ready for a shot in the major league bullpen.
Buttrey was sent to Triple-A Salt Lake after the trade, where he gave up one run in four innings with seven strikeouts. Promoted to the majors on August 16th, he was inserted into the big league bullpen and performed well, posting a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings with a sharp 20/5 K/BB. He was used as a closer in September and gathered four saves in six attempts.
Can he close long-term?
He certainly throws hard enough to fit the bullpen closer stereotype and he did a much better job throwing strikes this year. I also think his slider has improved; indeed, his run in August and September was the best stretch of pitching in his professional life.
To close he’ll need to maintain his improved sense of command. He’s also got to tighten up his game against left-handed hitters, who whacked him around at a .300/.365/.433 clip in the Show. On the other hand right-handers hit just .171/.222/.182 against him.
His splits were less pronounced in the minors and he’s certainly shown the ability to adapt and make needed adjustments over the last two seasons. He also seems to have the proper attitude:
“It’s amazing, I’d love to close games,” Buttrey said afterwards. “I just had the mind-set to go out and come right at ‘em ...
I think there are good reasons to be optimistic.