Tournaments : : Story
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Burn's Butler polished despite youth

Sean Cunningham        

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A star is in the making at the 15u Perfect Game World Series in Fort Myers, as Jordan Butler of the Florida Burn continues to improve and build up his reputation as one of the next great pitchers from Florida.

Butler pitched on Tuesday against the Houston Banditos and was stellar.  He started the game earlier this weekend, but after an hour rain delay, he had to leave the game after one inning. Butler was playing center field after the delay, but the game was suspended an inning later and scheduled to resume this morning.

Butler came back out on the mound to start the third inning and dominated a tough Banditos lineup.  In the end, he pitched a total of five innings, striking out 10 Banditos while walking just one and giving up one unearned run. 

Butler was able to run his fastball up to 89 miles per hour with tremendous run while complementing it with a sweeping breaking ball.  The fastball by itself was enough to overpower hitters but he was still able to spot it on both sides of the plate while mixing in his secondary pitches.  “I felt like I had everything working today except for my changeup,” Butler said.  Even without his changeup, he was still able to succeed.  “I could locate my fastball everywhere, and my curveball was working.”

Butler’s best pitch right now is his fastball, which he throws both two-seam and four-seam, although his four-seam fastball has natural run which allows him to focus on that pitch.  He rounds out his arsenal with a slider, curveball, and an improving changeup.  When putting away hitters, Butler explained, “against righties, I like to blow them away with a fastball, and with lefties, I like to put them away with my slider.”

The young left-hander is already very polished for his age.  He would still be very effective at the 15u level without his premium velocity and secondary pitches due to his feel for pitching and competitiveness on the mound.

Butler has already received some well-deserved national attention despite the fact he is just entering his sophomore year in high school.  He was selected to play for Team USA, which was a huge experience for him and allowed him to improve while playing with and against elite competition.  On his experience with Team USA, Butler said, “it was great, we won gold and we didn’t lose.  I got to pitch against Cuba, and I pitched five innings and gave up two runs. It was awesome to play with so many talented players, they didn’t make any errors in the field behind me and we had the best hitters in the country. It made me better seeing how good everybody else was.”

He has continued playing against the best competition possible this summer, playing in tournaments like the WWBA in Georgia. This summer, Butler has focused on, “using my legs more when I pitch, using my hips more when I hit.”

Butler recently joined the Florida Burn with his focus on improving himself for the future.  Former major league left-hander Mark Guthrie coaches the Burn, and Butler was enticed by the idea of teaming up with someone of Guthrie’s pedigree.  “I heard about coach Guthrie and how he’s a good left-handed pitching coach. I wanted to come to him so he could help me with my changeup, and he’s already helped a lot.”

Guthrie is just happy a player of Butler’s caliber wanted to play for his team.  “He brings a lot to our team,” Guthrie said.  “We got him about six weeks ago, and he helps us both ways.  He’s a great hitter, and he’s obviously a very talented left-handed pitcher, we’re fortunate to have him.”

While Butler is a two-way player, his future likely lies on the mound.  Guthrie is very impressed with him so far, saying, “he’s tough because he comes from a little lower three-quarters slot and has more of a sweeping breaking ball, which you don’t see a lot nowadays.”

Butler doesn’t have a preference when it comes to hitting or pitching—he’s a plus power hitter from the left side at the plate as well as a dominant pitcher—but he understands his future is likely on the mound. 

Butler has already made a huge impression on Guthrie in his six weeks with the Burn.  “Jordan’s main deal is that he is very polished and competitive,” Guthrie said.  “He wants to play against the best teams and hit against the best pitchers, and he really means it.  The Banditos are one of the best teams out here, and that’s the team Jordan wanted to pitch against. That is what every team needs, a guy like that to rally around and build yourself around and hopefully win championships against great competition like this further down the road.”

Just recently, Butler decided to verbally commit to the University of Florida.  Despite his youth and the fact he won’t be attending college for three years, committing to Florida was an easy decision for him. “I’ve been talking to Coach [Kevin] O’Sullivan this summer.  He came to see me pitch and I did well, and he offered me after the game.  I accepted immediately, it’s been my dream to pitch for Florida.”

Just based on his stuff and presence on the mound, Butler looks like he could hold his own on the mound in the SEC right now.  However, he has a long road ahead of him, and he still needs to improve significantly before he can reach his very high ceiling.  Based on his work ethic and the improvements he’s made in the last year as well as his polish for such a young age, it’s easy to imagine Butler as a college stud or high draft pick in a few years if he keeps working hard while staying healthy.

But that is all far away right now.  For his high school season, Butler has simple goals that he will surely achieve.  “I want to hit 90 [mph] and hit my first high school home run.”

While he is still so young and has a lot of hard work ahead of him, Jordan Butler is a name to keep an eye on for years to come.

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