Fantasy owners continue to wait for Billy Butler to develop power.  After hitting 21 HR in 2009 (along with 51 doubles) there was hope that he had turned the corner.  There was hope that he was on the precipice of becoming one of the elite first baseman in the game.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.  In fact, it wasn’t even close.  The 2010 season, while solid in many ways, fell well short of expectations:

  • 595 At Bats
  • .318 Batting Average (189 Hits)
  • 15 Home Runs
  • 78 RBI
  • 71 Runs
  • No Stolen Bases
  • .388 On Base Percentage
  • .469 Slugging Percentage
  • .341 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There is no questioning the fact that he can hit.  While you may want to point to the BABIP as something that is unsustainable, he was at .332 in 2009 so there is some reason to believe that he can once again be in that range.  He makes good contact, posting a 13.1 percent strikeout rate in 2010 (and 14.8 percent over his 1,975 AB career).

He also has improved his walk rate each of the past three seasons:

  • 2008 – 6.9 percent
  • 2009 – 8.6 percent
  • 2010 – 10.2 percent

He’s got a good eye at the plate and, at 24 years old (he’ll turn 25 on April 18), it is safe to say that he is likely a perennial .300 hitter in the Major Leagues.  There aren’t many hitters that you are comfortable projecting out to well above .300, but Butler is one of them at this point.

That’s not the question on everyone’s mind, however.  What we really are concerned about is if he can finally take that next step in the power department. 

While he regressed in 2010, he still had 60 extra base hits (45 doubles, 15 home runs).  The doubles tied him for fifth in the league, only four behind Adrian Beltre.  Sooner or later, as he gets older and hopefully stronger, you have to believe that some of those balls are going to start finding their way over the wall, don’t you?

Yes, his fly ball rate is somewhat concerning, as he has consistently been between 34.0 percent and 34.6 percent each of the past three years.  Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him improve upon his HR/FB rate, would it?

Just look at his marks over the past three years:

  • 2008 – 8.2 percent
  • 2009 – 11.9 percent
  • 2010 – 8.4 percent

Just for comparison purposes, Ryan Braun had a FB percentage of 34.9 percent in 2010 with a HR/FB of 14.0 percent.  That led to 25 HR. 

I’m not comparing Butler to Braun, because it is no contest.  The point is that, even if Butler doesn’t improve upon his fly ball rate, there is a good chance that he can vault himself into the 25-28 HR range.

If that were to happen, coupled with his average upside, he’d easily become a must use fantasy option.  The Royals lineup may not be loaded (at least not yet), but hitting in the middle should offer more than enough RBI opportunities.

At this point I would consider Butler a borderline starting 1B for 2011, but in leagues that require a corner infielder he is a very good option.  Seeing him hit .310+ with 24 (or more) HR and in the 90 RBI range is not unrealistic. 

According to Mock Draft Central he’s currently the 13th 1B coming off the board with an ADP of 85.55.  Given what we know about him, that seems dead on.

What are your thoughts on Butler?  Could this be the year that he puts it together?  Is he a player you would target on draft day?

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Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:


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