The future pitched Wednesday night at Municipal Stadium in San Jose.
Two MLB Futures Game invites — San Francisco Giants No.1-ranked prospect Kyle Crick and Colorado Rockies No.9-ranked prospect Eddie Butler — faced off in arguably the best pitching matchup the California League has seen in 2013.
Coming off what had to have been exciting weeks for two young stars in Queens, N.Y., the 20-year old Crick and 22-year old Butler wowed fans and scouts alike with five innings each of spectacular, power pitching.
Both arms were live, with Crick featuring a four-seam fastball that reached 97 MPH for the Class-A Advanced affiliate San Jose Giants while Butler countered with similar speed for the Modesto Nuts. Though Butler also throws a two-seam fastball, his four-seamer, like that of Crick, sat in the mid-90s and climbed as high as 97 on the in-house radar gun.
Statistically speaking, Crick was the more dominant pitcher, striking out six and holding Modesto hitless. But Butler had far better command of his pitches, throwing 41 of his 64 pitches for strikes while allowing just one walk. Crick hurled 16 more pitches, but threw just two more strikes than Butler and surrendered a season-high five walks.
Butler’s finest specialty pitch on Wednesday night was the slider, which he throws in the low-to-mid-80s. This sharp breaker, along with this heavy-sinking changeup, induced nine ground balls, eight of which recorded outs.
Unlike Butler, Crick lacks a confident two-seamer but is rumored to be working on that, as well as a changeup. The Sherman, Texas native relies heavily on a fastball/curveball combination to keep batters off-balance, and it has proven successful. Crick has struck out 38 hitters over his last 25 innings pitched.
Crick missed nearly two months, spanning mid-April to mid-June with an oblique strain, but has returned seemingly healthier than ever. His 1.08 ERA in his five games since coming off the disabled list for a June 21 start is best among CAL League starters over that stretch. Crick’s weakness is the walk, averaging three free passes per game in 2013. Despite that, batters have hit just .178 off Crick this season, including only 11 hits in his last five outings.
The basement-low ERA stems from Crick’s ability to bear down after letting opposing hitters reach, as they’re are batting just .135 off Crick with runners on base.
Butler hasn’t had quite the statistical season Crick is having in the CAL League, but must have impressed Rockies management to receive a call-up late in May after going 5-1 with a 1.66 ERA in nine South Atlantic League starts with the Asheville Tourists. Since joining Modesto, Butler hasn’t missed a start, going 3-3 with a 2.81 ERA and just 18 walks in 11 outings.
Both pitchers were pulled due to pitch limits after five shutout innings, but not before reassuring 2,648 fans that these arms are sure to, one day, debut in front of much larger audiences in big league uniforms.