John Danks - SP, CWS
For a time, Danks was one of the premier left-handed starters in the American League, but those days can feel very far away. From 2008 through 2010 Danks made every start and won 40 games with a 3.61 ERA; in the three seasons since he has been plagued by injuries, averaging just 19 starts per year while registering an ugly 4.69 ERA.
Shoulder surgery sapped the big southpaw of much of his velocity, dropping his fastball from the mid-90s to the upper-80s and taking away much of the zip on his signature cutter. As a result, while Danks' control remained solid, he became much more hittable and homer-prone.
This year, the velocity readings for Danks remain somewhat discouraging, but he's finding a way to work around it. He's getting more strikeouts (his 6.5 K/9 rate would rank as his highest since before the shoulder problems) and he has cut back on the hits allowed, holding opponents to a .245 average after hanging in the .270s each of the past three years.
Most encouraging is that Danks appears to be gaining steam now that he's finally healthy and back in a rhythm. He didn't get off to the greatest of starts -- his ERA rose to 5.64 in mid-May after a seven-run clunker in Houston -- but he has been flat-out excellent in his past three turns, with a 1.21 ERA and only 13 hits allowed in 22 1/3 innings.
That seems more reminiscent of the guy whose opponents' batting average sat below .250 every year from 2008 through 2010. In fact, pretty much all of Danks' peripherals -- from K-rate to BB-rate to HR-rate and more -- are very much in line with the numbers he posted back in his glory days.
So maybe we're seeing a return to form for the lefty, who's still only 29 years old. If he reverts to being the John Danks of old, he's well worth owning in mixed leagues everywhere.
Eddie Butler - SP, COL
It's been a quick ascent to the majors for Butler. When the Rockies selected him with the 46th overall pick in the 2012 draft, he was deemed an advanced hurler out of Radford College with the potential to rise fast, and he has done just that, reaching the bigs just two years after joining the pro ranks.
Butler made a name for himself as a prospect last year, when he went 9-5 with a sparkling 1.80 ERA over 28 starts between three levels (Low-A, High-A and Double-A). The outstanding performance pushed him all the way up to No. 24 on Baseball America's listing of the best prospects in the game.
Another strong start this year in Double-A, where he was 4-4 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through 11 starts, paved the way for Butler to join the Rockies rotation, as he was called up last week to replace the struggling Franklin Morales.
Butler's big-league debut, which came on Friday, was as rocky as the Colorado landscape. He was bashed around for six runs (all earned) on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings, with three walks and only two strikeouts. It certainly bears noting that he was facing off against a Dodgers team that ranks second in the NL in OPS, and he was pitching in Coors Field.
The latter will obviously be a circumstance he'll have to deal with often, but it's tough to judge a guy harshly when facing one of the best offenses in the league in his first exposure to MLB hitting. Given his huge success in the minors and his quality stuff, I'd expect much better from the right-hander going forward.
In deeper leagues, Butler offers solid upside and is worth a flier.