Monday, February 4, 2008

Royals Insider: Billy Butler

On the final segment of Royals Insider: The Hitters, we examine the life and times surrounding the man of (seemingly) a thousand nicknames: Billy Butler.

Often deemed such affectionate surnames as "Wild Bill", "Boom Boom", and "The Butler Did It!", Billy was a product of Wolfson High School. After posting phenomenal offensive numbers as a third baseman, Baseball America ranked him as a "can't miss" draft choice upon his pending graduation in 2004. The Royals selected the burly right-hander as the fourteenth overall selection in the first round of the amateur entry draft.

Attached is an excerpt from a Baseball America scouting report on Butler, circa 2005:

Butler should develop into an all-star caliber offensive player along the lines of Travis Hafner. He’ll begin 2006 in Double-A, and the only fear the Royals have is what to do if his bat becomes major league ready before his defense is passable. That could happen this year.

(Special courtesy: Royals Authority)

Below is (hopefully) the very beginning of an extensive trophy case:

2004 - Kansas City Royals Minor League Player of the Year, Pioneer League All-Star 3B, Rookie League All-Star 3B
2005 - California League Rookie of the Year, High A All-Star DH, Baseball America 1st team Minor League All-Star DH, Kansas City Royals Minor League Player of the Year, California League All-Star DH, California/Carolina League All-Star Game MVP
2006 - Texas League All-Star OF, Futures Game All-Star MVP, Double-A All-Star OF

In 2004, Billy thurst forth onto the scene, hitting a robust .373/.488/.596/1.084 line in 260 at-bats in Advanced Rookie league Idaho Falls. The following season, he would split two equally fantastic showings in A+ High Desert and AA Wichita, hitting a combined 30 home runs and 110 RBI's in 491 at-bats. He spent the entire 2006 season in AA Wichita, hitting .331/.388/.499/.887 in southern Kansas.

By mid-2005, he performed terribly at third base, committing an overwhelming 18 errors in 114 total chances before being converted to the outfield. His defense in left field was even worse, as he committed 6 errors combined in 60 games in High Desert and Wichita, combining for a fielding percentage barely above .920 at the position. It appeared crystal clear that Butler was destined for big things at Kauffman Stadium in the very near future. However, one problem presented itself, and that problem still exists to this day. Just where would Billy Butler play? DH-ing him would certainly be an option, but designated hitter prospects are difficult to come by. Simply put, Butler's range, instincts, and arm are terrible in the outfield and at third base, enough to safely deem that a project worth ceasing. By 2007, it became clear to the Royals that his days as an outfielder - in any organizational level - were gravely limited. General Manager Dayton Moore announced that Butler would be converted to first base. In 13 games in Kansas City, after posting an insanely low .84 range factor in 6 games in left field, he played mostly designated hitter, and committed 2 intermittent errors at first base.

What will 2008 hold for Billy Rae?

GS/G: 151/152
AB: 590
H: 168
AVG: .283
OBP: .356
SLG: .459
HR: 17
RBI: 71
R: 63
2B: 38
3B: 0
SB: 1
BB: 56
K: 100
CS: 0
OPS+: 110

On-field performance:
Regresses noticeably: 15%
Repeats 2007 form, except now over course of entire season: 60%
Enormous breakthrough (.290/.360/.540): 25%

Stays in K.C. all season: 85%
Gets sent back to minors: 15%

Injury contingency:
Injured for 15 days or more: 5%

Job allocation:
Starting DH: 85%
Starting first baseman: 15%

- Quick hands, terrific bat speed, and ability to make necessary time adjustments within strike zone
- Excellent contact and well above average power-hitter who uses all fields

- Comes packaged without a position. Has poor range, mobility, and instincts at all positions
- Speed is a non-factor in Butler's game

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