Top duo in Minor Leagues?

This is a copy/paste from MLB.com contributor Jim Callis. My hopes are getting pumped up by each day as we get closer to report time. Both Gray Wolf and Butler are part of NRI roster to the Rockies’ major league camp. Sure hope to catch both of them in action when I’m down there in Scottsdale during second week of March.
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In a Pipeline Perspective written in October, I outlined why Gray was the best prospect to come out of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, even if he wasn’t taken until the Rockies did with the third overall pick. After signing for a franchise-record $4.8 million, the University of Oklahoma product capped a strong pro debut by recording a 0.75 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 24 innings in the high Class A California League.

Gray’s stuff is even more impressive than those statistics. Both his fastball and his slider graded as the best among MLB.com’s newly minted Top 100 Prospects.

Gray can maintain his mid-90s fastball deep into games, and he has cracked 100 mph at times. In addition to his overpowering velocity, his heater also features exceptionally heavy life. When hitters manage to make contact with Gray’s fastball, they rarely do much with it.

Gray’s slider isn’t as consistent, but when it’s on, it gives him a second legitimate out pitch. He can run his breaking ball into the upper 80s with sharp bite. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder made significant strides with his changeup and command in 2013, giving further credence to the notion that he can develop into a true No. 1 starter.

Like Gray, Butler blossomed in 2013. The 46th overall choice in the 2012 Draft, he signed for $1 million and led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in ERA (2.13), WHIP (1.06) and opponents’ average (.230) in his pro debut. Butler’s stuff seemed a little firmer than it had been at Radford University, and his projection rose from middle-of-the-rotation possibility to No. 2 starter.

Butler’s ceiling appears even higher after a spectacular first full pro season. He ranked second in the Minor Leagues in ERA (1.80) and opponents’ average (.180), dazzled in the Futures Game and finished the season by allowing two runs in six Double-A starts.

While he can’t quite match Gray’s pure stuff, Butler has a deeper repertoire and better command. As he has gotten stronger, adding 15 pounds since signing, so have his individual pitches.

Butler regularly pitches in the mid-90s with his fastball, which touches 99 mph and gives right-handers fits because it bears down and in on them. His slider can be devastating as well, arriving in the upper 80s with late break. Butler also has a solid curveball and changeup, and at times he can show four different plus pitches.

Gray and Butler could open the 2014 season together with Double-A Tulsa — and they could finish it together in Colorado. They have what it takes to become the best 1-2 pitching punch in Rockies history, and to lead a staff capable of carrying the club back to the postseason.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis’ Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

RMH, that’s what we’re waiting for! And don’t forget the ultimate dark horse, Friedrich. And Bettis, who really didn’t get a long enough look last year. A Gray-Butler 1-2 would be awesome. Keeping my fingers crossed. Bringing those guys to camp suggests to me that the Rockies are hoping that one or both forces them to make a decision to call them up by June. I can’t see either one breaking camp with the big club if for no other… Read more »

sdcarp
sdcarp
6 years ago

Seems like the trend these days is to bring pitchers along quickly. There was a stat floating around last year regarding the average age of SPer’s, and I think it was the youngest it’s ever been (or darn close).

sabrchip
sabrchip
6 years ago

College pitchers tend to make it to the Show quickly. Usually, their first minor league season, like Gray’s sees a limit on innings since he went deep through the college season in IPs. Look for him to get a greater amount of innings as the minor league season progresses. It would be hard to keep him on the farm, tho, if he’s smokin’ all his competitors. The speculation is for him and Butler to push the other starters in the… Read more »

ProgMatinee
ProgMatinee
6 years ago
Reply to  sabrchip

Part of me thinks its better to throw the pitchers into Coors naive about what to expect at altitude. I’m not impressed with most of our rooks who played for the SkySox.

Not a great sample to compare two guys, but as an example, I like what Nicasio coming from AA in his early starts at Coors versus what Greg Reynolds did after AAA.

sdcarp
sdcarp
6 years ago
Reply to  ProgMatinee

I agree with this……don’t have a logical explanation for it, but it “seems’ true. Of course CS is over 1000 feet higher than Denver (and several other ballparks in the PCL are also at relatively high altitude – so there’s no much rest for the weary)….so maybe it just adds too much insult to injury to the psyche of a young pitcher. Interesting trivia question (try to answer without using Google) – what ML Stadium is located at the 2nd… Read more »

Bob K.
Bob K.
6 years ago

Oakland is 42′ above sea level and Texas is 616′ above sea level.

Bob K.
Bob K.
6 years ago
Reply to  sdcarp

Without looking it up, I have a vague recollection of it being one of the trivia questions during a Root Sports Rockies broadcast last year and I am thinking that the answer was the Diamondbacks’ ballpark.

sdcarp
sdcarp
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob K.

Bob – you’re super close, and the City of Phoenix is higher than City “X” – but the exact location of the ballpark within City “X” is something like 2′ higher than Chase Field. The way it was explained to me…..Chase Field is #3.

sdcarp
sdcarp
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob K.

Bob – follow up to follow up – I just did some Google mapping, and regardless of what I’ve been told, I think you are CORRECT by 30 feet. So maybe the trivia question should be what is the 3rd highest altitude ballpark?

Trip
Trip
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob K.

Bob is correct. Since that ballpark was originally called ‘the BOB’ ( bank one ballpark). Extra credit. Prior to the DBacks and coors field, the highest ballpark was called the launching pad. For a hint on which one, think snow. I’ll try to remember to login in tomorrow for the answer.

sdcarp
sdcarp
6 years ago

Trip is correct………Atlanta (Fulton County Stadium) and then Turner Field (essentially built in the Fulton County Stadium parking lot) is at +/- 1040 feet above sea level. The BOB is +/- 1070 feet above sea level. I think I probably first heard this trivia question after Coors was built, but prior to the BOB being constructed (1993-1998). So in that period, Atlanta was the 2nd highest altitude stadium. Interesting………..with the Braves moving well north of downtown into Suburbia…..I won’t be… Read more »

Bob K.
Bob K.
6 years ago

Four Rockies on 2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects

http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/2014-baseball-america-top-100-prospects-free/

12. Jonathan Gray RHP
24. Eddie Butler RHP
86. Rosell Herrera
94. David Dahl OF

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