CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Eddie Butler, Pitcher, Colorado Rockies
2014 season (Minors): 20 G, 20 GS, 117 IP, 4.00 ERA, 1.291 WHIP, 6 W, 69 SO, 37 BB
2014 season (Majors): 3 G, 3 GS, 16 IP, 6.75 ERA, 1.875 WHIP, 1 W, 3 SO, 7 BB
Heading into the 2014 season, Eddie Butler was hailed as the top arm in the Rockies’ system and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Heading into this year, things were quite different.
In 2013, Butler was lights-out in the Minor Leagues. In 28 starts between three levels, he posted a 1.08 ERA and .99 WHIP while striking out 143 in 149 2/3 innings. He was elevated to the top of the prospect rankings, getting as high as 24th overall by Baseball America, and was considered a can’t-miss for the Rockies. But in ‘14, he missed.
Butler was shelled in his MLB debut in June, allowing 10 hits and six runs to the Dodgers. He went back down and made just two more starts with the Rockies at the end of September; one good, and one bad. In the Minors, he wasn’t great either, posting a 4.00 ERA in 20 starts, though much of those issues can be pinned to a rotator cuff strain, which held him out for a chunk of the year.
When he felt pain again in the Arizona Fall League, there was more concern surrounding Butler. He fell down the prospect ranks (No. 77 overall by Baseball America), and 2013 first-round Draft pick (third overall) Jon Gray surpassed him in the minds of many in the Rockies’ system. But Butler was determined to prove that last season was but a small bump in a still promising career.
Butler was OK during the spring, and when the Rockies released Jhoulys Chacin, it opened up a spot in the rotation for the prospect, which he earned. Butler looked more like the promising young righty the Rox drafted in the first round in 2012 in his first start this season, striking out five and allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings vs. the Brewers, working his highly-touted sinker well.
The 24-year-old’s sinker comes down on hitters in the low 90s, and he couples that with a mid-90s four-seam fastball while also including a curve, slider and changeup — of which he needs to find he has the most success with.
As with most young pitchers, avoiding fatigue and arm injuries will be a key for Butler, as will his ability to keep the sinker down. With a spot in the rotation in hand, Butler can establish himself as a front-end starter in the big leagues this year. He’ll always have to deal with the issues of Coors Field as long as he is with Colorado, but it’s something he has the stuff to overcome.