Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.
Billy Butler regressed to just 15 HRs in 2010 after whacking 21 the season before. His ISO power also dropped from .191 to .151, fifth-lowest among qualified first basemen.
Butler’s fly-ball rate (34.0 percent) was third-lowest among the qualifying at his position. This explains why he’s able to hit for such a high average (.318 in ‘10, .299 career), but raises questions about whether he can develop 25-30 HR power.
To explore this theory, I examined all batters whose 2010 fly-ball rate was within one percentage point of Butler’s each way (33-35 percent). Of the 15 players who met this criteria, eight had a HR/FB rate higher than Butler’s 8.4 percent mark. Only two of those players (Joey Votto and Ryan Braun) hit 25 home runs or more, a total that would send Butler’s value through the roof. Furthermore, five of the 15 batters (33 percent) hit between 18 and 22 HRs, a range Butler has previously proved capable of reaching.
So what can we learn from this?
While Votto and Braun have produced 25-plus HR power with relatively low fly-ball rates, this appears to be an uncommon occurrence. A home run total in the 18—22 range is more likely for Butler looking towards 2011.
It is worth mentioning, however, that Butler leads both leagues in doubles (96) since 2009, and he’s just entering his age-25 season.
Robinson Cano, a similar hitter who has also always posted excellent contact and low fly-ball rates, hit 15, 19 and 14 HRs in his age-23, 24 and 25 seasons before developing 25 and 29-HR power in his age-26 and 27 seasons.
Bottom line: Butler is still two years short of his prime, and therefore remains a threat to develop the 25-HR power we’ve expected of him.
Of course the Kansas City lineup isn’t doing Butler any favors, but that hasn’t stopped him in the past. Expect 20 HRs in 2011, and the potential to progress even further in 2012 and beyond.
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