For years we have been hearing about the promise of Billy Butler, though he had never quite lived up to the hype. Well, at least until 2009 when he got his first full season in the Major Leagues and posted the following line:
608 At Bats
.301 Batting Average (183 Hits)
21 Home Runs
1 Stolen Bases
.362 On Base Percentage
.492 Slugging Percentage
.335 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The power has always been his biggest question mark, but at 23-years old he finally appeared to put things together. His flyball rate was consistent with what he had done during the parts of 2007 (32.6%) and 2008 (34.6%) as he posted a 34.6% mark.
What rose significantly, besides his at bats, was his HR/FB, going from 8.2% to 11.9%. That mark placed him at 67th in the league, so there is no reason to believe that he could not maintain it.
Additionally, he had 51 doubles, trailing just Brian Roberts (56). At 6’2″ and 240 pounds, would it surprise anyone to see him continue to add power, turning some of those doubles into home runs for the 2010 season? He did hit 30 HR in 2005, splitting time between Single and Double-A, so the power is certainly there.
Hitting in the middle of the Royals lineup, he will be in position to once again drive in plenty of runs. He spent 503 at bats in the number three hole, where he hit .306 with 19 HR and 81 RBI.
The runs scored are not elite, but with a healthy Jose Guillen and an improved lineup, he easily could score a few more. Remember, for all of his flaws, Guillen did have 196 RBI between 2007 & 2008, though was limited to just 281 AB in 2009. It’s a bat that was sorely missed and could easily lead to a few more runs scored for Butler, assuming he is not traded.
The average did come from a slightly inflated BABIP of .335, but it should not be considered unrealistic for him to hit in the .300 range. First of all, he makes good contact with a career strikeout rate of 15.6%. The more you put the ball in play, the better chance you have to get hits, obviously.
Additionally, if you are to believe that he is going to increase his power, those will be more hits that are not in play. Therefore, he could maintain a higher batting average even if his BABIP were to regress slightly.
With all that said, let’s take a look at what I would project Butler at for 2009:
.311 (182-585), 29 HR, 105 RBI, 85 R, 1 SB, .330 BABIP, .379 OBP, .535 SLG
As you can see, I’m a believer in Butler’s potential and think that what we saw in 2009 was just the beginning of things to come from the young slugger. His second half performance, where he hit .314 with 13 HR and 55 RBI in 287 AB is something that he could easily use as a springboard to superstardom.
We’ve all heard about the skill and in his second full season, I fully believe that he’s going to show us just how good he truly is. I see him developing into a must own player in all formats and is going to be a great selection in all drafts, assuming you don’t have to reach too far in order to get him.
What are your thoughts? Am I being overly optimistic? How good do you think Butler will be in 2010?
Check out some previous 2010 projections including:
Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.