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Tony Butler and your Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

I had the opportunity to attend the Timber Rattlers fan fest on Tuesday afternoon. The weather was terrible, it wasn't particularly windy, but it was extremely foggy and the temperature hovered in the mid to upper 30's. However, it was a good time and the 150 of us or so that were there were treated to a free hot dog, soda and popcorn. Here are my impressions from what I saw.


The T-Rats played a 5 inning scrimmage against the Lawrence University Vikings in which only T-Rat pitchers pitched. The "home" team consisted of T-Rat players pitching to Viking hitters, with T-Rat fielders. The "away" team consisted of Vikings fielders using a T-Rat pitcher and catcher that pitched to T-Rat hitters. The T-Rat pitchers were on specific pitch counts, as sometimes an inning ended with only two outs, if a pitcher had reached his pitch count (due to some poor Lawrence defense behind him usually), but other times the inning extended beyond 3 outs to get other T-Rats an at bat. All batters used wood bats.


Anyways, these are the things that caught my attention:


Tony Butler, 19, LHP, an Oak Creek, WI native and a 3rd round pick in last year's draft is rated as the #4 prospect in the Mariners system. He was very impressive. I don't think they had the mph gun turned on, but in the 2 innings he pitched (he started), he blew away the Lawrence hitters, as was to be expected. He struck out 3 and allowed 3 soft rollers for the other three outs. He looked very athletic as he covered first on two of them for flips from the 1B. The other one he threw over himself. For a big guy (6'7") he got off the mound and to 1st quicker and more athletically than I would have expected. On the downside, his control wasn't always great, though this could be due to the fog and very cold temperatures, he spiked a couple pitches before they even reached the plate, but if he can control his control, with just his fast ball and curve he should have no problem putting up a 2.80 ERA with 120 K's or so in 100 innings and earn an August call up. As with most Low A players, he was also a very nice kid, I talked to him briefly after his warmups while we were waiting for the National Anthem to start, and he was kind enough to sign a few balls. I'm sure it's just because of his physical nature, but he reminded me a lot of Colorado pitcher Jeff Francis on the mound...though Butler is actually a couple inches taller.


The other player I was impressed with, though he walked a batter, but looked like he had good stuff nonetheless, was RHP Anthony Varvaro (#19 prospect), a pitcher out of St. John's drafted in the 12th round of 2005. Though he's 22, he looks like he could have a future as a bullpen guy and seemed to have the Vikings hitters off balance in every at bat.


I really wanted to see SS Carlos Triunfel play (#11 prospect). The kid just turned 17 in February and the Mariners want him to start in Low A this year? Personally, I think that's a little crazy and the kid probably needs a year of rookie ball. He's out of the Dominican, but come on, if he were American he would be a junior in high school...Low A is asking too much if you ask me. However, according to one of the coaches, Carlos had some VISA issues and was not able to make it, but he should be there in time for tonight's opener.


The other big name on the roster is RHP Chris Tillman, the 2nd round pick from last year's draft. However, if I remember correctly, he did not pitch because he is schedule to start tonight's opener.


Gavin Dickey, CF, may also have a future purely based on speed, but he doesn't appear anywhere on the top prospect lists, but this year could change that.


Overall, this team should have much more talent than last year's team, which was awful at times. The only prospect from last year that seemed to have a chance was Luis Valbuena, who I really wasn't even impressed with anyways.


Top Prospects to at least start the year on this year's team according to BA including their ages, and ranks:


LHP, Tony Butler (19), #4

RHP, Chris Tillman (18 ) , #8

SS, Carlos Triunfel (17), #11

RHP, Anthony Varvaro (22), #19

OF, Greg Halman (19), #25

3B, Alex Liddi (18 ) , #26


T-Rats won the scrimmage 4-0 if I recall, but the loudest cheers came in the 4th inning when Lawrence got their only hit of the game (a soft liner just over the SS's head). Lawrence struggled with defense and it showed, as they committed 4 or 5 errors.


T-Rats open tonight against the Ryne Sandberg coached Peoria Chiefs in Apple-ton tonight at 6:35, it should be chilly, but I'm sure there are still tickets available, and as mentioned elsewhere, the game should be available on Time Warner Sports.


Timber Rattlers Website

Blog of the T-Rat Radio Announcer, Chris Mehring

Mariner Minors Blogspot

Fan's Guide to the 2007 Midwest League


The Fan's guide used to be a very nice link with a lot of information, but it looks like the author may be taking a break in 2007 and not updating it...kind of a bummer



With all that said.....GO BREWERS!



edit: For whatever it's worth, I failed to mention, I was definitely not impressed with the Timber Rattlers' catchers, they had a couple passed balls and their throws to second were usually off by quite a bit. If it wasn't because of the weather, this could be a weak spot for the team in 2007.

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Thanks for sharing your observations parkside. I didn't know if Butler would open '07 back with the T-Rats since he pitched for them a little bit a year ago. I took some video of him last spring in the PG spring scout league (Oak Creek's season is in the summer) when he was throwing 91 in 40-degree weather.


Just to give you some background on Varvaro, he was a potential 1st round pick in 2005 until he ran into arm problems late that spring. Before those arm problems he was throwing in the mid-90s with a knockout slider, and was part of the same pitching staff that included Red Sox prospect Craig Hansen.


You're right, Truinfel has no business debuting at low-A, but the Ms have never been shy about aggresively promoting prospects.


Gavin Dickey was a sleeper prospect of mine a year ago for the Florida Gators, as he's long on tools but short on production. He has the athleticism to put up big numbers, but needs to start proving he can do so soon.


While I like Chris Tillman, an Aflac All-American from two summers ago, it's pretty indicative of the Ms system when he's the team's #2 prospect.

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Butler is gonna be a great major leaguer some day.

Ive got to know him for three years in high school, and he is one of the most humble kids ive ever met. Can't wait to go watch him pitch on monday.

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edit: I mispoke. Tillman is rated as the Mariner's 8th best prospect. I was going to mention him being a 2nd round draftpick and mistakenly listed him as the #2 prospect. I pulled a Greg...I apologize. (I also left Alex Liddi off the list of players that will be on the T-Rats this year). Edits will be made above.
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Tony was a former player of ours for 4 years.


Great kid, competitor and overall person. Not to mention his 90+ stuff and +hammer.


He's got a bright future...hard to believe he's only a 19 YO at A ball already.


To bad the Brewers passed on him.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just a small plug for the T-Rats gift shop. I was in the other day and they were selling a couple items that I thought were neat. Cracked game-used bats (hairline cracks) that were signed by nearly the entire team are $25 (most include signatures from Butler and Carlos Triunfel) ....also for sale were game-used batting helmets also signed by the team, those were going for $40....pretty affordable merchandise if you ask me. I picked up a bat.


Team Update: Though it's only been 13 at-bats so far due to rainouts, Triunfel is hitting .385 (5 for 13) and I heard from a few guys at the stadium that not only are scouts raving about Triunfel, but so are his fellow players. They can't believe he's only 17. He does have two errors, I didn't see them, but I was told they were on throws, when most players wouldn't have even gotten to the ball in the first place.


Butler has only gotten 1.1 innings of work so far, giving up a run in his only appearance.


The team is 1-4

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