Scouts always talk about the five tools: hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, defense, and arm strength. However, we know that there are more factors that determine a player’s success in professional baseball than that. Among them are plate discipline, hustle, instincts on the basepaths and in the field, and the simply intangible attributes that help a team win. How much do those factors matter? Well, it depends on the beholder, but they were enough to get Blake Butera selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 35th round.
Blake Butera is a 5’9″, 168 middle infielder out of Boston College. But he wasn’t just any player for them–he was their co-captain his senior year and is the owner of several school records. Butera has the most career walks and at-bats of any Golden Eagle, ranks second in games played, games started, and times on base, places third in hit-by-pitches, and finishes with the sixth-most hits. He capped his career with his best all-around season in 2015, hitting to a .284/.370/.377 line with 9 doubles, 2 homers, 29 RBI, 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts, and 22 walks against 20 strikeouts.
Butera fills up several areas of the stat sheet, but he does nothing particularly well. He played a decent amount of shortstop at BC, but he isn’t fast and lacks the range necessary for the position. His hands are good but not great, and the same can be said of his arm. He is a solid second baseman and should be able to play some third base and corner outfield as well. Unfortunately, given his questions at the plate, the only position at which he would have had a chance to start is shortstop.
Offensively, Butera is patient but doesn’t have the best pitch recognition. Though he has solid bat speed, his power is only to the gaps. He will swipe a few bases, but his speed is only average than anything else and he is stealing more from instincts than anything else. However, that is where we start talking about what he can give a team despite the things he lacks. He will hustle and he will make heads-up plays. He won’t be riled in big situations and will take a teammate aside to cheer him up when he is down. His biggest asset to the Rays organization may be having him as a teammate for their younger prospects.
Before we dismiss Blake Butera for his own abilities, though, we should remember that no one will be trying harder to improve and listening more intently to the advice of his coaches. If there is anything he can do to get the most out of his abilities, he will find a way to do it. And though his lack of clear, easy-to-grasp tools dropped him down to the 35th round of the MLB Draft, Butera has as good of a chance as anyone drafted this late to make it to the major leagues.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.