Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Bits: Butler continues tear; Jeter returns
By Eric Karabell
It's possible that no matter how Kansas City Royals designated hitter and occasional first baseman Billy Butler performs the rest of this somewhat disappointing season, most fantasy owners will be avoiding him in the first 10 rounds of 2014 drafts. After all, despite his three hits Monday, which pushed his batting average to a solid .295 this season, Butler hasn't flashed much power, and the 29 home runs and 107 RBIs from 2012 were a large reason why he was the 40th pick in ESPN average live drafts this year. Butler's home run Monday was merely his 13th of the season, and he has 66 RBIs in 130 games.
Then again, Butler really shouldn't be undervalued. This is not a bad season by any means, not with a guy hitting .295 and playing every day. There should be a top-100 spot reserved for hitters like Butler and Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, guys who always hit.
How much value -- or lack thereof -- should be placed on hitters who don't play a regular position, the guys who tie up a DH or utility spot, early in drafts? Butler has played only six games at first base in 2013, making him DH-only for 2014. But he's so safe in batting average and contributes some power -- he's not Juan Pierre, after all -- that there remains value.
[+]Enlarge Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsBilly Butler is hitting .350 since the All-Star break.
Ultimately, fantasy owners should view Butler's 2012 campaign as the power outlier, which might seem like a negative thing, but look at the positives: He's walking more, striking out less, and his home run-to-fly ball rate is right around his career norm. He's just not a power hitter, not hitting the ball as far. Once upon a time, when Butler was a prodigious doubles hitter, it fooled fantasy owners into expecting big-time power. And really, 29 home runs isn't true big-time power. It's certainly nice and better than his current pace for 16, but the point is Butler is a good hitter and there's little reason to expect his production to end in 2014.
Butler enters Tuesday 18th among first basemen on the ESPN Player Rater, so obviously it's not what was expected on draft day, but hey, it could certainly be worse. The worst batting average Butler has delivered in five seasons is .291. Think about that as you ponder what someone like Chicago White Sox DH and occasional first baseman Adam Dunn is worth. Power is always nice, but when it comes to 2014 drafts, don't underrate the batting average helpers like Butler -- and Joe Mauer, Matt Carpenter, Torii Hunter, James Loney, Howie Kendrick and even Eric Hosmer -- who might not conform to expected position requirements.
Box score bits (AL):New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter came off the disabled list and batted second Monday, going hitless with a walk in four plate appearances. Jeter, in his sixth game of a frustrating season, doesn't figure to steal many bases, but he should hit for batting average and score runs. Seeing the lack of fantasy depth at middle infield, he should be owned in most leagues. Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes was tuned up yet again Monday, allowing five runs (three earned) without making it through five full innings. Hughes leads the majors with 10 starts of fewer than five innings, edging out Barry Zito, Dan Straily and Erik Bedard. Don't wait for Hughes, who has four wins in 25 starts, to thrive. Royals speedster Emilio Bonifacio continues to run since being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays. Bonifacio's stolen base Monday was his eighth in 12 games with his new club, and it's worth noting that he is second base-eligible. Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won his 10th game Monday, fanning six Yankees in 6 1/3 innings. Sure, Dickey has been a disappointment, but like Butler, it could have been worse; Dickey's ERA is 2.79 over the past month. Remember when Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson won AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 but fantasy analysts questioned whether he would continue to pitch well? Hellickson did pitch well in 2012, but this is the season where the luck has evened out. Hellickson enjoyed a .223 BABIP in 2011; this season it's .312 after Monday's thrashing in Kansas City. The five runs he allowed in 2 2/3 innings pushed Hellickson's bloated ERA to 5.21. It should be a run lower, but it isn't, and we shouldn't expect better the final five weeks. Houston Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles saved Monday's game when others could not, but he's still expected to start Thursday. The Astros don't have a set closer still, though Josh Fields and Chia-Jen Lo remain in play.
[+]Enlarge Norm Hall/Getty ImagesBrian Bogusevic is owned in just 0.5 percent of ESPN leagues.
Box score bits (NL):Chicago Cubs outfielder Brian Bogusevic knocked in the team's runs with a two-run double in the ninth inning Monday, and he has seven RBIs and a pair of home runs over the past week. After hitting .317 with 10 home runs and 16 steals at Triple-A Iowa this season and seeing what teammate Donnie Murphy has done for the Cubs, he's worth an NL-only look. The San Diego Padres promoted former first-round pick Reymond Fuentes from Triple-A Tucson on Monday, optioning Jaff Decker. Fuentes started in center field and was hitless, but he hit .418 for Tucson and steals many bases. The Arizona Diamondbacks welcomed back catcher Miguel Montero from his DL stint for a bulging disk in his back, and he went 0-for-4. At this point, Montero, the No. 9 catcher in ESPN average live drafts but hitting .225, should be avoided. Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler was caught stealing in the first inning Monday then left with a knee bruise. Fowler was a fantasy star with eight April home runs, but he has only four since and is hitting .216 since the All-Star break. He shouldn't be dropped, but expectations for that breakout season should be kept in check.