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Getting to know Mets pitcher Jose Butto

Butto is starting for the Mets this afternoon in his major league debut.

New York Mets Photo Day
Jose Butto
Photo by Benjamin Rusnak/Getty Images

Born in Cumana, Venezuela, Jose Butto was officially signed by the Mets in early June 2017 for just $5,000, a 19-year-old who agreed to terms with a club just prior to the end of the 2016-2017 international free agent signing period and the beginning of the 2017-2018 period. He made his professional debut with the DSL Mets and posted a 1.44 ERA in 50.0 innings, allowing 48 hits, walking 9, and striking out 41. In 2018, he was assigned to the Kingsport Mets when their season began and appeared in six games for them in total, pitching 32.2 innings and posting a 1.93 ERA with 27 hits allowed, 11 walks, and 31 strikeouts. At the end of July, he was promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones, where he remained for the rest of the season. In Coney Island, he posted a 6.11 ERA in 28.0 innings, allowing 31 hits, walking 11, and striking out 24. In total, the right-hander posted a 3.86 ERA in 60.2 innings, allowing 58 hits, walking 22, and striking out 55.

In 2019, the Mets promoted Butto to the Columbia Fireflies, their Low-A affiliate at the time, where he spent the entire season. He ended up posting a 3.62 ERA in 112.0 innings, allowing 100 hits, walking 31, and striking out 109. He would have likely been promoted to the St. Lucie Mets, then the Mets’ High-A affiliate had the 2020 season not been cancelled, but after a delay in April and May, Major League Baseball announced that it would not be providing its affiliate teams with players, officially ending the season. The coronavirus pandemic calmed a bit as the year went on, and by in February 2021, Major League Baseball announced that the 2021 Minor League Baseball season would proceed, with Triple-A teams beginning in April and Double-A, High-A, and Low-A teams beginning in May.

Butto, unlike many of his former teammates with the DSL Mets, Kingsport Mets, and Brooklyn Cyclones, was not released by the organization following MLB’s takeover and realignment of the minors, and the right-hander was assigned to Brooklyn to begin the season, the Cyclones now the Mets’ High-A affiliate. Making 12 starts, Butto posted a 4.32 ERA in 58.1 innings, allowing 51 hits, walking 15, and striking out 60. His work with the Cyclones was solid enough and earned him a promotion to Double-A Binghamton in late July. He benefitted from the move, posting a 3.12 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing 33 hits, walking 9, and striking out 50. All in all, he posted a 3.83 ERA in 98.2 total innings in 2021, allowing 84 hits, walking 24, and striking out 110. Eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft and on the cusp of possible major league utility, the Mets added Butto to the 40-man roster that winter.

Voted the Mets’ 17th top prospect coming into the season by Amazin’ Avenue, right-hander somewhat surprisingly began the 2022 season in Binghamton instead of being promoted to Syracuse. Regardless, he more or less picked up where he left off, posting an even 4.00 ERA in 92.1 innings for the Rumble Ponies, allowing 86 hits, walking 35, and striking out 108. He was promoted to the Syracuse Mets in early August and made only one real start there, allowing three earned runs against the Buffalo Bisons in five innings. His next start, against the Charlotte Knights, was more or less a bullpen session, as Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker had both already been injured and it was looking more and more like the Mets would need a starter on the 40-man roster to start.

The 6’1”, 200 lb. right-hander throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, dropping and driving off the mound. His mechanics are smooth and repeatable, allowing Butto to pound all four quadrants of the zone and hit his spots. For his career, he has a sterling 2.6 BB/9 rate and even if his foreign and now-defunct short-season experience is eliminated, he still has an exceptional 2.7 BB/9 rate in three seasons playing for full-season affiliates. His strikeout rate was always acceptable, but they spiked following his attendance in the 2020 Instructional League.

His fastball ranges from the high-80s-to-low-90s, topping out as high as 95 MPH. Generally on the lower side of that spectrum earlier in his career, the right-hander has added muscle mass to his frame since the end of the 2019 season and now sits on the higher end of that range. While not particularly overpowering, the pitch has an above-average spin rate for a fastball, and he began throwing a two-seam variant to give the pitch more movement.

His go-to secondary pitch is his changeup, one of the better ones currently in the Mets minor league system, if not the best. The pitch sits in the low-to-mid-80s, which gives it roughly 10 MPH of velocity differential between it and his fastball, and features late, tumbling action. The pitch tunnels well with his fastball, and Butto is able to command it, throwing it for strikes down in the zone and to elicit swings and misses under it. The pitch is a true weapon against left-handers, but as good as it is, has been only mildly effective against right-handers, which is why developing his curveball further has always be key for his future success important. To date, Butto really has not done that. The pitch currently sits in the high-70s-to-low-80s and features slight 12-6 break when he has a good feel for it or looser, slurvier break when he does not.

Tightening the pitch up and turning what is generally considered a below-average offering into at least a fringe-average pitch will determine whether or not Butto will progress from a minor league prospect who is able to spam a pitch that the majority of minor league hitters have trouble with into a legitimate major leaguer able to face an order multiple times. Butto has exhibited a steep fall off a cliff when facing batters more than once. In the 17.0 innings he has pitched into the fourth inning, batters are hitting .294 against him and he has allowed 8 earned runs (4.24 ERA). In the 12.2 innings he has pitched into the fifth inning, batters are hitting .356 against him and he has allowed 13 earned runs (9.24 ERA). In the 6.1 innings he has pitched into the sixth inning, batters are hitting .269 against him and he has allowed 4 earned runs (5.68 ERA).