While there are always exceptions to the rule, generally a player with just utility eligibility is one that fantasy owners try to avoid. The problem is flexibility, and when you don’t have the capability of shifting players around, depending on who is hot and who is not, you lose a little something.
That being said, while the Royals’ Billy Butler was certainly one of the few exceptions to the rule, the fact that he enters 2013 with eligibility at first base makes him that much more attractive of an option. All you have to do is look at the numbers to see why:
614 At Bats
.313 Batting Average (192 Hits)
29 Home Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.373 On Base Percentage
.510 Slugging Percentage
For years Butler had been seen as a player with a good average and power waiting to break through. Finally, the wait ended in 2012, but can he continue it in 2013?
There was no questioning the potential, after producing a total of 140 doubles the previous three seasons. The question had simply become when some of those balls would start carrying over the fences. He will turn 27-years old the April, so if you believe in that “phenomenon” it is easy to conclude that the power will stay.
However, at first glance the numbers may say something a little bit different. After having never posted a HR/FB greater than 11.9%, last season the number jumped to 19.9%. In fact, prior to September he had not posted a HR/FB below 19.2% and had four straight months over 22%. If it hadn’t been for a September swoon, where he posted an 11.8% mark, the number would look even more bloated.
The thing is, even if you don’t believe in the number (though, with that type of consistency it is hard not to), there is reason to think Butler could at least maintain the power, if not improve it. He actually posted a career low fly ball rate in 2012, at 28.8%. If that number increases to his career norm, which is around 33-34%, even a regression in the HR/FB will mean plenty of HR, as long as it doesn’t go back completely (which I don’t believe).
Of course, more fly balls could mean fewer line drives (he posted a career best 23.9% mark in ’12). However, before we go assuming it is going to lead to a tremendous average drop, keep in mind Butler has just one season below .291 in his career. As long as he doesn’t start swinging for the fences, there is no reason to be concerned.
If you are looking for a negative, it’s the factor that he lacks speed and therefore does not score as many runs. That said, with better support around him there’s no reason to think he won’t at least get to the 80-85 range.
You put everything together and you get the following projection for 2013:
.313 (188-600), 31 HR, 110 RBI, 85 R, 2 SB, .331 BABIP, .377 OBP, .530 SLG
In other words, it appears that Butler finally took the major step forward we have all been waiting for and there is no reason to think that he can’t maintain it (if not improve upon it). He has emerged as one of the better hitters in the game and is a great selection in all formats.
What is your thoughts on Butler? Do you think he can maintain his 2012 production? How good do you think he can be?
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Make sure to check out all of our extremely early 2013 rankings: