Tag: Billy Butler

Billy Butler to Yankees: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

The New York Yankees reportedly added another bat to their roster for the stretch run Wednesday.

Citing sources, Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported the Bronx Bombers signed Billy Butler to a deal. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed the news.

This comes after the Oakland Athletics released the designated hitter Sunday, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Butler struggled with Oakland this season, slashing .276/.331/.403 with four home runs and 31 RBI in 85 games. The production was a far cry from the numbers he put up for the Kansas City Royals in his prime, when he hit .313 and drilled 29 home runs with 107 RBI in 2012.

He was part of the Royals team that reached the World Series in 2014 before losing to the San Francisco Giants.

In all, the 30-year-old is slashing .289/.354/.441 with 146 homers in his career.

It wasn’t just a drop-off in his power numbers that preceded Oakland’s decision to release Butler. Slusser chronicled a fight he had with then-teammate Danny Valencia in August.

Slusser cited multiple sources who said Butler told an equipment representative that Valencia lied about using off-brand cleats only during pregame warm-ups and “allegedly told the representative that the company should drop Valencia’s endorsement deal.”

The players then pushed each other before Valencia reportedly hit Butler in the head.

Rosenthal suggested the Yankees will use their newly acquired hitter against left-handers, whom they will face seven times in the next 11 contests. However, Butler has hit three of his four home runs this year and 26 of his 39 long balls from 2013 to 2015 against righties, per ESPN.com.

As of Wednesday, the Yankees were four games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL’s final wild-card spot.

Butler hasn’t been the force he once was during the 2016 campaign, but he is a proven bat who can help an offense that has struggled for much of the year. As of Wednesday, New York’s 610 runs scored ranked 22nd in the big leagues.    

Butler may not be a season-saving presence in the lineup, but the Yankees offense needs a boost as the club chases a playoff spot.    

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Billy Butler Injury: Updates on Athletics DH’s Concussion and Return

Oakland Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion Monday in the aftermath of an altercation with teammate Danny Valencia, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The team announced it would call up Arismendy Alcantara in the corresponding move.

Continue for updates.

Butler and Valencia Fined but Not Suspended

Monday, Aug. 22

In addition to reporting the two players were fined rather than suspended, Shea noted the Athletics training staff told general manager David Forst that Butler “would need five to seven days,” which prompted the decision to put him on the seven-day concussion DL.

“Forst said he’s not concerned, that this is not the first clubhouse fight ever,” Shea added. “He said it’s [the] first [the] A’s had this year.”

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Butler and Valencia had a “physical confrontation” before batting practice Friday. Slusser reported players had to break up the ensuing fight, and Valencia hit Butler on the head after the two exchanged shoves.

Citing players who spoke anonymously, Slusser reported an equipment representative asked Valencia about off-brand spikes in his locker that he was told not to wear in games. While Valencia said he uses them only before games, Butler reportedly told the representative otherwise and suggested the company should drop Valencia’s endorsement deal.

Slusser noted Butler “has an equipment endorsement with a different company.”

John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reported the two players haven’t spoken since the fight. 

“One [player] said that Valencia and Butler both played roles in the incident,” Slusser wrote. “Valencia should not have punched Butler. And Butler should not have provoked Valencia by potentially costing him an endorsement contract.”

Butler and Valencia both played for the Kansas City Royals during the 2014 season, and Valencia joined Oakland in August 2015.

Valencia has played for the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Royals, Toronto Blue Jays and Athletics since entering the big leagues in 2010.

Former teammate Eric Hosmer came to his defense in the face of potential criticism regarding the incident:

As for the temporary loss of Butler, Oakland will miss an important presence in its lineup. He is slashing .286/.338/.419 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 79 games this season, which are solid numbers but a far cry from his prime, when he slashed .313/.373/.510 with 29 homers and 107 RBI for Kansas City in 2012.

Last year, Butler’s first with the Athletics following eight seasons with the Royals, he hit 15 homers.

This is a lost season for Oakland, so there is no pennant race for Butler to rush back to as the calendar approaches October. Rather than risking further injury, he will take this time on the seven-day DL. 

The fourth-place Athletics were 19.5 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West entering play Monday.

Look for Oakland to turn to Khris Davis as an option at DH. Davis is in the middle of a career campaign with 32 home runs and 79 RBI in 115 games. Veteran Coco Crisp can play in the outfield when Davis is the DH or DH when Davis is in the outfield.

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Billy Butler to Sign with Athletics: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Billy Butler‘s quest to find a team has reportedly reached its final destination. The former Kansas City Royals designated hitter is a free agent for the first time in his career, so this was a new experience. 

According to Robert Murray of MLB Daily Rumors, Butler has agreed to a contract with the Oakland Athletics: 

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale added:

ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney also confirmed the terms of the contract. 

If ever there was a case study on the market value of designated hitters in this era of baseball, Butler was it. He’s a 28-year-old hitting specialist incapable of playing a position, at least in any kind of effective manner, and he had the worst offensive season (.271/.323/.379) of his career in 2014. 

The Royals, whose payroll climbed to over $90 million for the first time last season, didn’t exercise their $12.5 million option on Butler. At the time, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore told Dick Kaegel of MLB.com that the team was interested in bringing the DH back at a lower rate:

Billy’s been a huge part of our success, and we’re going to stay engaged with him and do everything we can to bring him back.

The only thing I can say about that is we want him back. We’re obviously not in a position now to pick up a $12 million option, but we welcome the opportunity to bring him back.

Butler is also quoted in the piece as saying that he wanted to return, and he’s “a Royal at heart.” Ultimately, he hit the market at an inopportune time due to the competition at his position. Victor Martinez, another DH and superior hitter, was also available this winter before the Detroit Tigers threw a mega contract his way. 

Drew Fairservice of FanGraphs wrote about the problems that teams face with one-dimensional hitters (average, no speed, no power) and how that drastically limits interest:

It makes these hitters, high average and good contact rates though they claim, tough sells for teams in need of offense.

Both are defensive zeroes with nothing to offer on the bases, a lack of foot speed which further limits the contributions with the bat. The company they keep speaks volumes about the type of player who can make this style work.

There’s no denying that Butler’s profile isn’t great, though that doesn’t mean he has no value. He’s just two years removed from hitting .289/.374/.412 and in 2012 hitting 29 home runs. It becomes a matter of figuring out whether you believe this season was a blip on the radar or a sign that his decline phase has set in. 

Given Butler’s age and track record, there’s reason to be optimistic that he can find that swing again. He’s also durable, having played no less than 151 games in each of the last six years, which can only bode well for his numbers in his new home.

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Why 2014 Is Finally the Year for the Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals finished the 2013 spring training with a record of 25-7, and fans were excited to see the potential of the young guns on this team.  

By the end of the 2013 season, the Royals had a record of 86-76, and if it wasn’t for an epic 10-game winning streak from the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City would have finished right behind the Detroit Tigers for second place in the American League Central.  Furthermore, they even could have won a wild-card spot.

This season, Kansas City returns for another shot at the playoffs, and the chances are definitely greater.

After adding right fielder Norichika Aoki and the ever-so-reliable Omar Infante at second base, Kansas City’s lineup is now very dangerous.  

Aoki brings a great bat to the lineup, coming off a season with the Milwaukee Brewers in which he batted .286 in 155 games.  With Infante, the Royals are getting a guy who batted .318 in 118 games with the Detroit Tigers in 2013, and he has proven that he is a great major league player.

Add those two to a lineup that already consists of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, and you can see why there is reason to believe 2014 will be the season the Royals breakthrough.  

Butler has been a staple in the Royals lineup ever since he came up, owning a career batting average of .298 with 118 home runs in seven seasons with Kansas City.  Butler has been so reliable for the Royals, playing all 162 games in 2013 and missing only one game in 2012.  Expect him to be extremely determined to take his team to the playoffs, as they now have a legitimate shot in 2014. 

In 138 games in 2013, young catcher Salvador Perez proved he deserved the starting catcher role, batting .292 with 13 home runs.  In 253 career games, Perez owns a .301 batting average, which is very impressive for a catcher.  

James Shields sits atop the starting rotation for Kansas City in 2014.  In 34 games started in 2013, Shields went 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA.

After Shields, the Royals have Jeremy Guthrie, who won 15 games for Kansas City in 2013.  Although his 4.04 ERA in 2013 could have people questioning his effectiveness, he continues to win ballgames, which is a huge plus for that rotation.  

The third slot in the rotation belongs to Jason Vargas, who pitched in only 24 games in 2013, piling up a record of 9-8 on the year.  The Royals signed him to a four-year, $32 million deal during the offseason because they felt he has the stuff to win ballgames for them.  A bounce-back year for Vargas will give the Royals a great shot at making the playoffs.  

Next, the Royals have 15-year veteran starter Bruce Chen, who bounced back in 2013 after a rough 2012 season.  In 15 games started and 34 games pitched overall, Chen went 9-4 with a 3.27 ERA for the Royals, helping them come just shy of the playoffs.  

The fifth spot in the rotation will likely go to Yordano Ventura, who is a top prospect for Kansas City.  In 2012, he was the starting pitcher for Team World in the MLB Futures Game on All-Star Weekend.  

In five minor league seasons, Ventura owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of an outstanding 9.9.  His ability to strike batters out has stood out to the organization, and he is only 23 years old—he has his whole career ahead of him.  If he performs in 2014, the Royals will have a pretty stable rotation, backed by a lineup full of young, talented hitters.  

While they will have to compete with the Detroit Tigers in the NL Central, there is plenty of reason to believe the Royals will finish with a better record in 2014 than the Cleveland Indians, who surged ahead of them in the standings at the end of last season.  If all goes according to plan for the Royals, we will see them competing with Detroit for the division title in September.  

So as the 2014 season quickly approaches, the Royals are excited to get it under way and to pursue the organization’s first playoff birth in 29 years.  With added experience and a few heavy bats in the lineup, there is reason to be excited if you are a fan of the Royals.  


*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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Kansas City Royals: Trading Billy Butler for Pitching Makes Sense

Position players for the Kansas City Royals have a spring training report date of February 19. The current build of the Royals roster might not be intact when it’s time to report to Surprise, Arizona though. Slugger Billy Butler could be headed toward a new destination as Kansas City looks to beef up its pitching without overpaying in free agency.

It seems like it has been eons since Butler began carrying a big stick for the Royals. Since first attaining a full season’s worth of at bats, Butler has been nothing but a model of powerful consistency. He wards off injuries and has averaged 160 games played since 2009. 

Despite his power numbers being down last year and playing half of his games in the pitcher-friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium, he has still averaged 20 home runs annually. During the same span, Butler has driven in an average of 92 runs batted in while tallying a cumulative batting average of .302. 

Needless to say, Butler is one hell of a ball player.

And just think, Butler will not turn 28 years old until after the start of the season.

Despite seeing a dip in his total HR, RBI and AVG last season, Butler is still a formidable weapon at the plate. Opposing teams see this, too.

The Royals aren’t necessarily souring on their designated hitter, though. They have more pressing needs and find it more efficient to move Butler to another club in order to advance their pitching situation.

Earlier this month, talk was abound via MLB Trade Rumors that suggested Kansas City was willing to move Butler in order to land a pitcher

According to MLB Depth Charts, the Royals have a projected rotation that consists of ace James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Bruce Chen and Danny Duffy. Elite prospect Yordano Ventura could be in the mix at some point in the summer as well.

On the flip side, nothing about leaning on Chen and Duffy makes the Royals ooze with confidence.

In 2011, the Royals and Butler agreed to a four-year, $30 million deal. With a significant option worth $12.5 million in 2015 (or a $1 million buyout), the Royals should be even more encouraged to move Butler.

He is set to earn a team-friendly $8 million this year, a figure which would be encouraging to any prospective club lacking legitimate power at first base or designated hitter.

Last season, Kansas City posted its first winning record since 2003. Since 1992, they have just three winning seasons. While the organization is clearly moving in the right direction, they also lack an adequate starting rotation to compete late into September with division rival Detroit.

Butler is the one piece the Royals could move to better round out their rotation. He comes with a friendly $8 million salary for 2014 and provides a great AVG to coincide with enough power to justify a deal. Finding the right match is what might derail Kansas City’s hopes of improving their rotation, though.

All statistics provided courtesy of Fangraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com.

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Home Run Derby 2012: There Is No Need for Change in Rules

In the 2012 Home Run Derby, there was a big-time reaction for Home Run Derby captain Robinson Cano.  That reaction was filled with an array of boos from the Kansas City crowd.

Why the hostility for the second baseman? 

Well, he said he would pick a a member of the Kansas City Royals a couple of weeks prior to the event.  That guy would be All-Star Billy Butler.  The Royals DH was not chosen by Cano. 

This has happened before.  Last year, captain Prince Fielder received boos after failing to pick local hometown boy Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Now, commissioner Bud Selig said that the Baseball Writers Association of America will discuss a possible rule change to the anticipated event.  This rule will be for the captain to choose a player from where the Home Run Derby is being played.  In other words, a hometown boy.

Fans booing should not have such an impact on a decision like this.  Should Cano have not commented at all that he would choose a Royal?  Yes, but in the end, isn’t it his decision? 

Could the MLB have stepped in and held Cano to a higher standard to make sure he did pick Butler?  Yes, there is an argument for that as well. 

Players like Cano shouldn’t be booed like he was on Monday night, but he asked for it.  Does that mean the MLB should jump in and demand the captain to choose a local?  No, that isn’t very fair.

Fans buy the tickets, and they have the right to cheer and boo as they please.  Perhaps he would have gotten booed anyways for being a Yankee.  It comes with the territory, usually. 

So, with the festivities heading to Citi Field next year, would it be wrong for the Home Run Derby captain to not choose David Wright or a member of the New York Mets?  No, it should be their decision. 

These players are volunteering for the event.  They shouldn’t have to deal with many rules.  MLB guys are used to getting cheered and booed.  Quite frankly, they are athletes and fans show them positive and negative emotions.

While some don’t necessarily deserve the reaction they receive, that shouldn’t have any power on the future of the Home Run Derby.

Having a hometown player could be good for the sport and event, but is it coming along the wrong way?  This would be a decision of haste and reaction of Cano’s night. 

This story may not have been such a big deal if Cano hadn’t said anything in the first place.  Perhaps the clubhouses should tell their players to not make such promises if they can’t handle the negative reactions if they end up backing out of the deal. 

There will always be the risk of having a hometown player that won’t be considered worthy of the nod by many baseball experts and fans. 

The MLB shouldn’t make a decision like this based on one night. 

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Spring Training: Lincecum Leads Giants over Kansas City

On Monday, it was a trip to Kansas City’s spring training facility to see the Royals and San Francisco. Outside of the Chicago Cubs, the Giants are the biggest draw in the Cactus League and easily had more than half the fans of the 6,243 in attendance.

To the delight of much of the crowd, San Francisco won 2-1, as both teams used a mix of regulars and subs for about six innings, before the younger guys with numbers of 60 or higher took over.

Last season, the Giants were last in the National League in scoring and 29th in baseball, with a large part of their problem being they swung (and often missed) at more pitches that were out of the strike zone than any other team in the major league. The return of Buster Posey will help, although you don’t go from being the lowest scoring team in your league to becoming the 1970s Big Red Machine because of one player.

Part of the change in culture was noted when San Francisco got a runner on first base. If that player had reasonable speed, they would be looking to steal second, and if a hit ball was a questionable gapper, the runner would try to advance the extra base.

Kansas City’s farm system is reportedly well stocked and the parent club was sixth in runs scored in the junior circuit in 2011. Can the Royals maintain a solid scoring team and improve its pitching to continue its march to become a .500 club? That answer will come later and it will be their pitching that will make that determination.

Giants Notes: Tim Lincecum threw four good innings, striking out four and permitting one walk and one hit. Lincecum utilized his curveball for the first time this spring and had good results, if not total command just yet. “This is a lot better than my last outing (five runs on seven hits and a walk with no strikeouts),” Lincecum said. “The fact I doubled my innings helps and my arm and my body still feel good and I still kept my mechanics. I’m trying to take that as a positive and run with it.” While there are still three weeks left in spring training, Lincecum’s velocity is of possible concern. If the radar gun numbers on the scoreboard are to be believed, Lincecum topped out at 90-91 MPH—just like last season—and not at the 93-95 range of his Cy Young seasons. This should be looked at further once the season starts.

San Francisco has a great deal of catching depth behind the healing Buster Posey, with the likes of switch-hitting 22-year-old Hector Sanchez, who will probably start the year in the minors along with vets Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart.

The Giants are very excited about center fielder Gregor Blanco, who reached based four times on Monday and raised his batting average to a scalding .545. Blanco earned MVP honors in the Venezuelan Winter League and has not missed a beat in wearing a San Francisco uniform for the first time.

Freddy Sanchez is expected to take the field sometime this week, having been a DH to this point in coming back from a torn labrum last June. Among the people playing second base is Joaquin Arias, who made three sensational plays. The 27-year-old doesn’t appear to be a threat with a bat in his hand, but give him some leather and he’ll get the job done.

Brett Pill had two hits and played first base yesterday, and it is perplexing that it seems the Giants’ front office really wants this 27-year-old to play over Brandon Belt, who is four years younger and has considerably more power.

San Francisco’s projected win total is 87 and if that is to be reached, they need Posey and Sanchez back to their old selves and others to be a force. If manager Bruce Bochy stays committed to being aggressive on the base paths and the starting pitching holds up, there is no reason the Giants cannot return to the postseason and win 90 games in 2012.

Royals Notes: Having never seen Luke Hochevar live before, the immediate reaction is he throws harder than I would have guessed, consistently ringing up 95 mph on the radar gun. Last season, his career took off in a new direction by adjusting his arm angle to make his slider appear like his sinker, causing hesitation by batters. In the second half of last year Hochevar had a 3.52 ERA and averaged 7.7 punch-outs per nine innings. On Monday, while throwing hard, his pitches lacked movement in surrendering two runs on four hits over three innings and was taken deep by Conor Gillaspie. This is an important year for the 6’6″ right-hander who turns 29 in September and needs to show that he’s more than just another arm on what might be an ordinary club.

For the first time in memory, Kansas City has enough quality pitchers in camp and they will actually have to send somebody down because they were not just quite good enough to make the big club, instead of choosing the lesser of evils. Manager Ned Yost has talked about the competition being extremely “stiff”, using that word four times in the same sentence recently. While it is debatable about the exact quality of this contingent, it is a big upgrade over prior years.

Another huge positive for the Royals would be the return to form of closer Joakim Soria, who suffered declining strikeout numbers and less command a season ago. If Soria does not return to previous form, the match of him and new setup man Jonathan Broxton could cause a sharp increase in the need for Maalox in the Kansas City area. Yost would be foolish not to maximize the talents of last year’s setup star Greg Holland, who struck out three of the four San Fran hitters he faced Monday.

Any lineup that includes Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer is a terrific place to start. If Alex Gordon can have the same kind of breakout season he did last year and be a touch more selective at the dish, Kansas City’s offense will be capable of scoring runs in bunches. However, to surpass the oddsmakers total of 80 projected wins and finish second in the AL Central, the pitching has to improve overall and more Royals at the top and the bottom of the order have to be on base with greater regularity. 

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Kansas City Royals: Young Talent Has Future Looking Bright in KC

For the past few decades, the Kansas City Royals have been little more than an afterthought in the world of baseball, but behind names such as Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Aaron Crow and now Alex Gordon things are on the verge of turning around for the once forgotten franchise.

The Royals haven’t enjoyed a great amount of success in recent memory, finishing in last place of the AL Central six of the last seven season. Despite the lack of on-field success however, the team has enjoyed a fair amount of early round picks in the past few MLB drafts.

With these early round picks, the team’s management has chosen some quality players over the years, three of which made their debuts in Aaron Crow, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.

Crow has been everything the Royals could have asked for in a set-up man, posting a 1.43 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 37.2 innings of work in his first major league season. Hosmer was the talk of Kansas City upon his call up back in April of this season, and has been producing quality numbers for the team through the first few months of his career.

Moustakas, or “Moose” as he’s known by his fan base, has been the only struggling member of this group, posting a disappointing .250 average in 44 major league at-bats. To be fair to Moose, not every highly touted prospect lives up to expectations right out of the gate, just ask Anthony Rizzo.

The Royals certainly don’t look as if they’re making a playoff run this season, but don’t count them out over the next few seasons. As Moustakas and Hosmer further develop and current team staples like Billy Butler and Joakim Soria continue playing as they’ve proven they can there’s reason to believe in this Royals team.

The only foreseeable problem in Kansas City’s playoff goals is the starting pitching. Crow and Soria are a nice one-two punch to close out games, but they can only do their job if the Royals are in the lead. This problem could easily be fixed by the longtime trade deadline sellers turning the script and actually try to acquire quality pitching from other clubs.

I’ll start this off by stating this is all clear speculation by me, but if I were in the Royals front office I would target pitchers such as the San Fransisco Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong or Barry Zito or even the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey.

Vogelsong has been extremely impressive this season and the Giants have to chose whether him or Zito is going to fill out this rotation at some point. Either would prove to be great additions for the Royals organization. Pelfrey is what he is, but the Mets need to move contracts and he’s still a pitcher who could easily replace one of the Royals current starters.

As much as the casual MLB fan might not believe this, but the Kansas City Royals are on their way to climbing the ranks in the AL Central and have a strong chance at making a playoff run in the years to come.

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Kansas City Royals: Who Will Be Their Lone All-Star?

As much as I’ve enjoyed the Royals’ surprising early-season success, I’m still not kidding myself. They’re not especially likely to be in the playoff picture during the summer’s dog days. Even closer than August contention, though, is the MLB All-Star Game.

The all-star game will be an especially big year next year, when the event is heading to Kansas City. There might even be hope for multiple Royals to represent the American League in their home park. But this year, it’s almost sure to be the status quo for Royals players.

What is the status quo? The Royals have not had more than one all-star since 2003 when, somewhat amazingly, Mike MacDougal represented the team along with perennial all-star Mike Sweeney. Here is the list of Royals representatives since 2003:

2004: Ken Harvey

2005: Mike Sweeney

2006: Mark Redman

2007: Gil Meche

2008: Joakim Soria

2009: Zack Greinke

2010: Joakim Soria

What stands out about that list is the inclusion of Ken Harvey and Mark Redman, who as it turns out were not actually star-caliber players. But the rest of the list hasn’t done much in the big game either.

A position player has not made the team since Sweeney in ’05 and a Royals player has not recorded a hit in the all-star game since, brace yourself now, 1989! Royals fans who were around back then will remember that Bo Jackson led off that game with a monstrous home run on his way to an MVP performance. But since then, nothing.

The pitching has been a bit better, but Soria didn’t even enter the game last year. Neither did Meche in 2007, Redman in 2006 or MacDougal in 2003. Zack Greinke struck out two in one inning of work in 2009, and Soria pitched 1.2 innings in 2008 without giving up a run. Jose Rosado made the team in 1997 and 1999, memorably earning the win in ’97 despite giving up a game-tying home run to Javy Lopez of the Atlanta Braves in his only inning of work.

The point is that the all-star game hasn’t exactly been a trail of glittery memories for the Royals, and probably won’t be until 2012. For now they are guaranteed at least one all-star, per MLB rules, and that is all they’re likely to get.

So who will represent the Royals in 2011? Let’s take a look at the contenders, in order from least to most likely:

Nate Adcock: Might have been in contention for the spot before going just 2.2 innings and allowing seven earned runs last night, ballooning his ERA to 4.07. It was disappointing to see his regression following a five-inning, three-hit performance in his previous trip through the rotation. He had a 1.66 ERA before last night’s performance, so he still has value. But his hopes of being a Rule 5 all-star were essentially dashed last night when he got bombed in Texas.

Joakim Soria: Not his year. The guy seems like he’s blown more leads this year than in the rest of his career combined. It will be nice to see a fresh face representing the Royals this year.

Eric Hosmer: Yes, I realize that he is arguably the Royals’ best player. But he’s got a couple of things going against him. One, by missing the first month-plusof the season he would have to put up Pujols-ian numbers to match up statistically with guys who have been in the bigs all year.

Two, he plays one of the most competitive positions in the American League. Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez and Paul Konerko also play first base. Heck, Hosmer isn’t even on the ballot for the Royals. That honor was bestowed upon Kila Ka’aihue.

Saying that, his slick fielding and .833 OPS have been an encouraging beginning for Hosmer. He will makes plenty of these games before his career is over.

Billy Butler: He is probably my favorite Royal, and he’s having a productive season. His .392 OBP places him third among first basemen in the American League. If you wanted to get into the details, you might point out that Butler hasn’t played first base since early April. And you’d be right.

But there are other reasons why Butler doesn’t stack up. His .808 OPS is nothing special for a 1B/DH type, and his 17 extra-base hits and three home runs show that something is lacking in the power department. He’s a valuable guy to have, especially on the swing-happy Royals, but he is not an all-star.

Jeff Francouer: I have trouble grading Francouer out because I keep waiting for his precipitous decline to begin. It just hasn’t happened yet. Francouer leads the Royals with nine homer runs, and his respectable .827 OPS puts him seventh among American league outfielders. His notoriously poor OBP is actually sitting at a respectable .332. He should have a legitimate shot at being the Royals representative.

Unfortunately, he’s not even the best outfielder on the team. And I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Alex Gordon: Gordon has been a revelation out of the leadoff spot in the Royals order, and has now raised his OPS to .838, good for fifth among AL outfielders. The nine games that he’s played from the leadoff spot have essentially been the best games of his season.

His OPS is .975 over the span. He’s doubled his season’s total of home runs, hitting three from the top spot to give him six for the season. He’s walking and slugging at a greater rate. Ned Yost needs to be given all the credit for having the gall to hit Gordon third for the first part of the season, and also for putting Hosmer into that spot and Gordon at the top of the order at the right time. Both guys seem to be thriving in their new roles.

Gordon could sneak into an underwhelming American League outfield if he can stay consistent for the month of June. If he can maintain his .838 OPS out of the leadoff spot, then he’s the most valuable and deserving player on the team.

But since when does that player get the nod? I have a hunch that the Royals all-star bid could go to a more valuable all-star game player with some gaudier statistics.

Aaron Crow: Crow is an interesting case, because you wouldn’t call a reliever with 25.2 innings pitched the most valuable player on the team. But I think Crow has a chance to an Evan Meek-type all star, the Pittsburgh Pirates reliever who was the sole representative for the Pirates last season. Meek had a 1.11 ERA in the first half of 2010 with 45 strikeouts in 48.2 innings pitched.

Crow compares favorably to that. He’s pitched 25.2 innings with a minuscule 0.70 ERA this season. He’s recorded 26 strikeouts and just nine walks. Crow has really only had one bad game all season, and that statement doesn’t even need a caveat. He has literally only given up runs in one game this season. A one inning, three hit, two earned runs outing on May 7 is the only blip on the radar. That outing took his ERA from 0.00 to 1.10, and it has been lowering ever since.

With the ever-looming possibility that Crow could get placed in the rotation, his innings and strikeout numbers might just elevate in a hurry.

If he can keep his ERA below 1.00, I think he will represent the Royals in the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.

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MLB Predictions 2011: Billy Butler and Joakim Soria Will Be All-Stars

This is something that the Royals haven’t had for awhile: two All-Stars in the same season.

However, it could very well be a reality this year for KC, with a strong possibility of their two best players making the cut.

If you really think about this, it starts to make some sense.

On one hand, you have a two-time All-Star closer in Joakim Soria, and on the other hand, you have an emerging, young hitter in Billy Butler who has really improved in many areas throughout his short big league career.

Soria is one of the best closers in the game, and if you didn’t know his background, you might be surprised that he is a former Rule 5 draft pick that was actually traded from the Padres’ organization.

He could have been a dentist, as he has two siblings that do this, but he chose baseball in the end.

Needless to say, the Royals are very happy that he made that decision, as its hard to imagine where the back end of their bullpen would be today without him.

As for Butler, he is one of those guys that you really want to root for.

He was drafted out of high school in 2004, after being named to four different All-State teams for Wolfson High in Jacksonville, Florida.

He got his start with the Royals during the ’07 season after Mike Sweeney went down due to injury.

Butler had an rocky start to his ML career, but over the last couple of seasons, he has started to put it together.

From ’09 to ’10, Butler increased his average 17 points from .301 to .318, all while upping his OBP 26 points as well.

Billy is developing a better eye for opposing pitching, and all he needs is to get more power in his swing, which many Royal officials believe will happen soon.

Both of these guys are capable of having huge seasons, and in ’11, they appear to be ready to lead this team in more ways than one.

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