Are Billy Butler & Hunter Pence Buy Low Candidates?


by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We are just in the early stages of the 2014 season, but it’s easy to push the panic button if things haven’t gotten off to the start that you expected.  Is it too early?  Probably, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it.  The question is, can you capitalize on that and buy a player low?  It’s certainly possible, but slow starts don’t necessarily make a struggling player an ideal buy low candidate.  Let’s take a look at two slow starters to try and determine if they are worth targeting or not:

 

Billy Butler – Kansas City Royals
No one is going to argue that the Royals’ Billy Butler has been one of the biggest disappointments to open 2014. However, there is still reason for optimism. While his 2012 power surge is looking more and more like an aberration, a quick look at his batted ball profile tells us things should get better:

Year
Line Drive Rate
Groundball Rate
Fly Ball Rate
201223.9%47.3%28.8%
201320.5%53.1%26.4%
201414.6%68.8%16.7%
Career19.4%48.4%32.1%

Obviously, even in his big power season he didn’t have the fly ball rate to maintain the power. As long as you are expecting 15-20 HR, and not close to 30, you should still get that.

The big thing is that he’s simply driving the ball into the ground, something that started last season. In fact he had a 55.9% mark in the second half of 2013, so this isn’t just a short-term issue. While it wasn’t as extreme as it currently is, it’s been there for nearly a year (the only month he posted a groundball rate below 50% was April 2013, when he was at 47.5%).

For a player with no speed, it actually is a major concern.

Do we have to think things will get better? Absolutely, he has too long of a track record to think that he’s a .150 hitter. At the same time, with this type of groundball rate (even in the 50% range and without the power, he also may not be a .290 hitter either.

While he’s worth trying to target at the right price, I wouldn’t go nuts trying to get him.

 

Hunter Pence – San Francisco Giants
You would think, by now, people would accept Pence for the player he is. However, that’s just not what people do. Last year he hit .283 with 27 HR, 99 RBI, 91 R and 22 SB in his first full season in San Francisco.

 

In fact, while the speed had regressed in prior seasons, he has consistently posted 20+ HR, 90+ RBI and 80+ R. He’s also a career .284 hitter, only once being under .269.

Yes, he’s started slowly but why should we expect anything different this season?

He’s not striking out (16.5%) and the HR/FB (4.8% vs. 15.0% for his career) and BABIP (.218 vs. .318 for his career) are bound to improve. It’s been a slow start to the season, but does anyone truly believe that he won’t turn it around?

He looks like an ideal investment, especially if someone in your league has quickly grown frustrated with a player they viewed as a cornerstone of their offense.

Source – Fangraphs

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