Oakland A's prospect Lawrence Butler should have been on MLB roster

Feb 23, 2023; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Lawrence Butler (77) poses for a portrait
Feb 23, 2023; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Lawrence Butler (77) poses for a portrait / Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Outfielder Lawrence Butler was a breakout star this spring training and his spot on the Double-A roster in Midland is well-earned. But are the Oakland A’s giving Butler the chance he deserves?

The A’s organization announced roster moves on Saturday and prospect Lawrence Butler is heading to Midland. This comes as no great surprise as Butler last played for the Lansing Lugnuts in High-A and has been on a steady upward trajectory since improving significantly in 2021. But despite being the expected move by the A’s, the move may have been too conservative. 

I know what you’re thinking already. Am I really implying that Butler should’ve made the jump from High-A to the MLB because of 20 at-bats? Yes. Or at least he should have been assigned to the Triple-A squad in Las Vegas to see if this performance was a fluke or not. 

The A’s should be desperate for hitters after the atrocious season they had at the plate last year. The A’s had the worst batting average they have ever had as a team with a league-low .216 (and this is a club that has been around since 1901).  This is the time to take a chance on a potential star like Butler.

The organization did not bring anyone who could significantly alter production at the plate this offseason. The A’s traded for JJ Bleday hoping to unlock some of his potential after a disappointing rookie season in Miami, but he’s heading back to Triple-A after a mixed spring training performance. Bleday had a notable .804 OPS in 28 at-bats, which would have been more impressive if he didn’t strikeout 11 times. 

Slugger Jesus Aguilar was added in Jan. and has a lot of potential upside. But his career has been marred with inconsistent play and the last time Aguilar posted an OPS+ over 100 was in 2020. 

Catcher Shea Langeliers has impressed so far this spring training, but he remains a question mark as he only batted .218 last season in the majors. Of course the A’s still have second baseman Tony Kemp, but Kemp dragged down production in 2022. He averaged .235 and his OPS was a meager .641. 

Lawrence Butler’s highest level of play so far has been at the High-A level, but let’s take a look at just how incredible he was this spring training. In his 20 at-bats, Butler logged a stellar 1.625 OPS and averaged .550. For comparison, in 27 at-bats right-fielder Ramon Laureano has a .185 batting average and .426 OPS. Prospect center-fielder Esteury Ruiz has posted a .241 average in 29 at-bats and his OPS is .738 so far. 

Butler not only outplayed his competition, he blew them out of the water. He’s undoubtedly an exciting prospect who many hope will be an electric member of the “New Oakland A’s.” But the A’s have little to lose coming off of last season and now is the time to take chances. If the club wants to be competitive this year, they need to improve their batting significantly. Butler presented himself as an interesting option to consider, but ultimately they decided to pass on the opportunity for now. 

Butler could still very well find himself on the major league roster in the next season or two if he continues to impress in the minors. Should hitting woes continue in the majors for the A's, the jump could happen very soon.