This kid can flat out hit. His ’05 was a combined line of .340/.404/.611 with 30 homeruns and 39 doubles in just 540 plate appearances at two different levels. This year he mashed some more to the tune of .331/.388/.499 with 15 homeruns and 33 doubles in his first full season at AA. Throw in a nifty turn at the Futures game, where he won MVP, and the Royals have someone to keep an eye on. He has the traditional old player skills, good plate discipline and power. Oh yeah, and an iron glove. The Baseball Cube has a full rundown on his hitting prowess and fielding liabilities.
What makes Butler alluring to the big club this year is their lack of impact bats in the outfield. Mark Teahan, Ryan Sheeley and Mike Sweeney can hit, but they can’t make up for Joey Gathwright, David DeJesus, Emil Brown, Angel Berroa, Mark Grudzielanek and the aging Reggie Sanders. Rumors have begun to crop up surrounding a trade of Sanders or Brown, which lends credence to the idea that the Royals want to get Butler (who turns 21 in April) into the lineup. He can’t field, but will he hit?
The short answer is yes. Butler’s transition from AA ball to the majors would have some growing pains and slumps. Wichita has a mild negative effect on hitters. Meaning those excellent numbers are a little better than first appearance. And since his skill set is already developed for what hitters need to succeed at the big league level, he should step right in.
Royals GM Dayton Moore has made some unexpected moves signing Gil Meche to a big contract and inking Octavio Dotel to a one year deal, even though the Royals have minimal chances of contending in 2007. Don’t mistake those moves for confusion with the Royals chances next season. Moore knows he has time with Butler and fellow grip and rip prospect Alex Gordon. And he intends to use that time to leverage his aging assets into the best possible talent in return. That means midseason deals to contenders looking for experienced hitters can be expected. Reggie Sanders and Mike Sweeney have minimal value in January. But in June when someone’s DH is struggling or their right fielder just went down, they are veritable gold. So is Dotel. And in a couple of years Meche will be too.
But remember Billy Butler. His ticket is punched for Omaha, at least for now. He’ll be putting up big numbers in Kansas City soon.
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