If the Cubs Eddie Butler puts together more starts like his most recent six-inning, 2-hit shutout performance the central division rival Cardinals, Chicago won’t have to look far for a viable addition to their starting rotation. Butler’s dazzling performance has drawn immediate comparisons to staff ace Jake Arrieta.
Most astute baseball fans are well aware of the abrupt change in Arrieta as a serviceable starter at best, to a Cy Young caliber arm. Cub’s fans rightfully are drawing hopeful comparisons with Butler’s recent rise in productivity. Fantasy team owners should also keep an eye on his progression, as he may well turn out to be a steal off the waiver wire by the astute owner.
Butler broke into professional baseball with a head-turning couple of seasons at the A-ball level. His 2012-13 statistics produced a total ERA of around 2.00; including a sub 1.00 number in 27 innings at the AA level in Tulsa, Oklahoma, finishing out the 2013 season.
After only 4 innings back in Modesto, California’s high A-ball league to begin 2014, he made his first jump to Colorado, landing on the staff at Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, it was immediately clear that Butler had issues with the mile high air of Colorado. In his only AAA PCL start, he gave up an unimpressive 7 runs on 8 hits and was shipped back to AA-ball in Tulsa. The results were far more satisfactory, logging a sub-4.00 ERA in 108 innings.
The good numbers while playing on Tulsa time were enough to get Butler a look by the big club in Colorado to close the season. His performance wasn’t terrible, but he clearly seemed to have an aversion to pitching in Colorado. An atrocious 80-innning stay to start the 2015 season further reinforced this phenomenon.
During the 2015-16 seasons, he bounced back and forth between the Rockies and their AAA affiliate in Albuquerque. Seems someone on the Cubs scouting staff must have noticed the difference between Butler’s numbers away from the light air, a problem for about anyone who pitches at Coors Field for very long.
Just as the Cubs did with Arrieta, they had a hunch that a pitcher wasn’t living up to his hype because of situational location. Seems they may be right again. Butler kicked off 2017 with 30 innings sparkling performances, posting an ERA just over a run per game. The contact numbers were down from his years in the Rockie organization and strikeouts were encouragingly beginning to look more like those of his initial pro opportunities.
In his first opportunity for the Cubs, Butler did not disappoint. He mastered the Cardinals lineup for six strong innings, allowing only those two hits and one free pass. His strikeouts were strikingly similar to his A-ball numbers, which is especially of interest to fantasy team owners. If Butler can continue to keep his WHIP and ERA low, plus produce usable strikeout points, he is going to get wins just because he plays for the defending World Series Champions.
If you’ve been hit by the injury bug on your MLB lineup, or you didn’t use the best judgment on draft day when selecting your pitching staff, Butler is available in nearly 90 percent of standard fantasy leagues. He can be a very serviceable fill-gap starter for certain, and if he turns out to produce aka Arrieta, you may have yourself a staff ace.