Fantasy owners have long been waiting for the Royals’ Billy Butler to fully live up to his potential. We thought he was on his way in 2009 (21 HR, 93 RBI), but it ultimately wasn’t to be. While he has consistently proven that he can hit for a good-to-great average, that isn’t enough for fantasy owners (especially from a first baseman/DH type).
Consistently a doubles machine (between 44 and 51 the past three years), the overall power hasn’t been there the past two… Well, the latter isn’t entirely true. While he had just 15 HR in 2010 and six HR prior to the All-Star Break in 2011, Butler exploded in the second half of the season:
284 At Bats
.289 Batting Average (82 Hits)
13 Home Runs
One Stolen Bases
.327 On Base Percentage
.511 Slugging Percentage
So do we assume that he has once again figured things out and is due to explode in the power department in 2012? Before we can jump to that conclusion, let’s take a look at his HR/FB over the final three months of the season:
- July – 22.2% (33.3% FB%, 6 HR)
- August – 8.7% (46.9% FB%, 4 HR)
- September – 8.3% (43.4% FB%, 3 HR)
While it was great to see the 13 HR can we really look at those numbers and draw the conclusion that he’s going to hit 25-30 HR in 2012? While I wouldn’t rule it out, given the number of doubles he hits coupled with more experience (and potentially more strength) as he gets older, I also couldn’t take it as a fact either. Given his history the final two months appear to be more realistic, which would mean around 21 HR on the year. How can we enter 2012 anticipating anything more than that?
You couple the questionable power with the fact that, in most formats, he is only going to be eligible as a DH (he played just 11 games at 1B in 2011), and there are a few negatives surrounding him.
However, you can’t let that overshadow the positives that he brings to the table. We know he has the ability to hit above .300, having done it twice (he fell short in ’11 due to a .316 BABIP, his worst in a season with more than 450 AB). With his ability to make consistent contact (career strikeout rate of 13.6 percent), there is no reason to think anything is going to change.
You also have the improving lineup around him. We saw Alex Gordon (a player to discuss another day) finally live up to the hype. We saw Eric Hosmer hit the ground running. We still have youngsters like Mike Moustakas (you can read my 2012 projection of him by clicking here) and Alcides Escobar coming into their own, meaning the potential is there for even more help surrounding Butler.
What does that mean? He’s already posted two seasons of at least 90 RBI and the potential is there for him to reach 100 for the first time in his career.
If he ever could fully realize his power potential he could be a fantasy gold mine with the developing lineup around him. Given his second half surge it’s not unthinkable that he realizes the potential, but I would go into the season expecting him to hit in the low 20s, given his history and long stretch of power struggles. Is that not enough?
My 2012 projection for him is as follows:
.310 (186-600), 24 HR, 100 RBI, 80 R, 1 SB, .324 BABIP, .378 OBP, .500 SLG
Would anyone complain about those numbers, given his current ADP of 121.90 (according to Mock Draft Central)? If he has eligibility at 1B things look even better, but even to slot into your Utility spot it’s hard to find that type of production elsewhere. And if he can finally realize his power potential? He’s well worth the “gamble” at this part of the draft.
What are your thoughts of Butler? What type of numbers do you expect from him in 2012? Is he a player you would target?
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: