Athletics Masher Lawrence Butler Showed Off Improved Skill In 2021
The “lost year” was anything but for Lawrence Butler.
When minor league camps shut down in 2020, Butler spent his time engaged in speed training, trying to improve a tool that would aid him both on defense and the bases.
“He wanted to get a little speed back,” Athletics farm director Ed Sprague said. “He didn’t look significantly different, but he looked a little leaner. He’s so big that you wouldn’t think of him as a speed guy, but once he gets those long strides going, he moves pretty well.”
Butler carried his work into the 2021 season. After a slow start at Low-A Stockton, he emerged as an offensive force, hitting .273/.367/.504 with 19 home runs in 102 games, the final 14 at High-A Lansing.
Most impressively, Butler stole 29 bases in 34 tries in his two stops.
The 21-year-old Butler showed so much improvement that it is hard to look into his future. He played all three outfield positions and first base. He significantly improved his routes as he gained more playing time, and he appears to have the potential to be a plus defender on the outfield corners.
His legitimate plus tool is his power.
“He’s always had power. It’s just been a matter of getting to it,” Sprague said. "He focused on hitting to left-center (field), hitting the ball on the line. This allowed him to get better pitches to hit and make more contact. When he does that, the power’s going to be there.”
Oakland drafted Butler in the sixth round in 2018 out of Westlake High in Atlanta. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he is long-limbed and will need to work to contain his swing. His 146 strikeouts were high, but he also drew 59 walks and saw an average of more than four pitches per plate appearance.
“He’s a very exciting player and a great kid,” Sprague said. “He wants to do things right. He wants to be a great teammate.”
— After a difficult regular season, shortstop Robert Puason impressed during instructional league. The 19-year-old is a highly tooled player who needs experience.
“He progressed well at instructs,” Sprague said. “He’s where he needs to be. He’s got a chance to be a good player.”
— Outfielder Pedro Pineda also made a good impression at instructs.
“He’s got one of the better bat-to-ball skills of the Latin players we’ve seen.” Sprague said. “He can run and throw.”
Pineda was Oakland's highest profile signee of the 2020-2021 international signing period.