Billy Butler: Emerging Power Hitter?

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Ray Guilfoyle takes a look at the power breakout by Royals DH/1B Billy Butler and wonders if the power is here to stay.

I failed to include Royals DH/1B Billy Butler in my Top 50 Hitters for 2013, but thanks to one of our readers, I updated my Top 50 to include him. Today, I am going to take a closer look at him, to see if his power breakout this season is sustainable.

Let's start by looking at his career stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year Age G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2007 21 92 329 38 96 23 8 52 27 55 .292 .347 .447 .794 108 147
2008 22 124 443 44 122 22 11 55 33 57 .275 .324 .400 .724 93 177
2009 23 159 608 78 183 51 21 93 58 103 .301 .362 .492 .853 125 299
2010 24 158 595 77 189 45 15 78 69 78 .318 .388 .469 .857 134 279
2011 25 159 597 74 174 44 19 95 66 95 .291 .361 .461 .822 124 275
2012 26 155 593 68 186 30 28 104 50 107 .314 .372 .509 .881 138 302
6 Yrs 847 3165 379 950 215 102 477 303 495 .300 .362 .467 .829 123 1479
162 Game Avg. 162 605 72 182 41 20 91 58 95 .300 .362 .467 .829 123 283
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/29/2012.

Note: Baseball-Reference has not updated Butler's player page, but Butler hit his 29th home runs and 31st double last night. His triple slash line looks like this: .315-.372-.516.

Coming into the season, I was wondering if we would ever see a 20+ home run season from Butler. As far back as 2010, I thought he would was an easy pick for a power breakout after hitting 51 doubles in 2009. Butler has consistently produced 40+ doubles per season and it was just a matter of time before he turned some of those doubles into home runs.

This season, his doubles are down from 44 in 2011 to 31 this season, but his home runs are up to 29 from 19, and fantasy owners welcome the bump in power, but the question remains, is this what we can expect from him going further, or is this a one year aberration?

To answer this, I took a look at his player page over at FanGraphs, we see that his ISO (.201) and SLG (.516) are at career high levels. What I find amazing is that he is hitting more ground balls this season, his fly ball rate is down, yet his home runs are up, mainly due to his HR/FB rate almost doubling from 10.4% to 20.1%.

Here are his batted ball data comparing 2011 to 2012, according to FanGraphs:

2011: 18.7% LD; 45.6% GB, 35.8% FB

2012: 23.9% LD, 47.0% GB, 29.1% FB

According to his player page over at Hit Tracker Online, only 6 of his 29 home runs this season have been considered No Doubt home runs, but 14 of his 29 home runs would have left all 30 major league ballparks., and 18 of his 29 home runs would have left 29 of the 30 major league ballparks. Nine of his home runs have been considered "Just Enough" according to Hit Tracker Online, so I think the power boost we have seen in 2012 is real, and we can expect his home run totals to continue to grow going forward.

One thing to consider though is the fact that the Royals have a real need for starting pitching, and could use Butler as trade bait to bolster their rotation. With Wil Myers slated to join the Royals lineup in 2013, as he has proven he is ready with his performance in AAA this season, the Royals may float Butler;'s name in trade talks this offseason.

A move out of Kaufmann Stadium and into a more hitter friendly ballpark can only help to increase Butler's emerging power. He has already proven he can consistently hit for a solid average, as he has hit .290 or better in four of his five big league seasons. More consistent power from him going forward will boost his value to fantasy owners.

I ranked him as my 29th ranked hitter (really 28.a. as he was a late addition) in my Top 50 hitters for 2013 recently,and I think if the power is real, he can approach hit 30+ home runs in 2013 to go along with his .290-.300 batting average and 100+ RBI. He doesn't get the love that other hitters receive, but he is a very valuable hitter that you should target on draft day 2013.

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