Bringin' the Noise: The Butler hit it

Brad Evans
Yahoo! SportsMarch 27, 2008

He may not dominate a game of Poohsticks quite like Eeyore. His disposition may not be as happy-go-lucky as a certain Eddie Murphy-voiced jack. And he's never had extensive circus training like Pinocchio with pricked ears.

But, despite his lack of cartoonish attributes, Kansas City's "Big Donkey," Billy Butler, is one ass fantasy owners need to get their hands on.

Although he may have earned a degree from Bob Hamelin's College of Baconator Consumption, the portly 6-foot-1, 240-pound Butler is on the verge of fantasy stardom.

Barely old enough to legally purchase adult beverages, the 21-year-old phenom is the perfect blend of strike-zone acuity and natural bat brawn. His supreme gap-to-gap line-drive stroke (20.7 LD% in '07), history of high contact rates (85 CT% in '07) and respectable 7.6 BB% in 329 big league at-bats last season are clear indicators he'll compete for an American League batting title in the immediate future.

So far this spring, the Mr. Belvedere of K.C. has blasted four homers, driven in 13 runners, slapped a .387 batting average and notched a sparkling 10:8 K:BB split in 62 at-bats. Yes that's a small sample, but it's not inconceivable a batting crown could sit atop the callow Royals' head this year. If he did accomplish that feat, Butler would become the fourth-youngest player, behind Detroit Tigers legends Al Kaline and Ty Cobb and Alex Rodriguez, in major league history to reach the milestone.

Amazingly, despite our excessive Butler endorsements in video and print, the K.C. masterpiece is only owned in about a third of Yahoo! leagues. More bewildering, in mixed drafts processed at MockDraftCentral from Mar. 15 - Mar. 22, Butler's average draft position (ADP) was 285.7 or the 60th outfielder/17th first basemen selected. That was some 20-plus picks after injured Mets dinosaur Moises Alou and five picks behind batting average soul-destroyer Richie Sexson.

Even in many "expert" circles Butler isn't commanding kingly prices. In the high-profiled Tout Wars AL-only auction conducted on Mar. 21, he went for a bargain basement bid of $16, the same price as teammate David DeJesus. Crazy.

Expected to be K.C.'s primary DH and cleanup knocker behind a revitalized Mark Teahen, the AL-version of consistency king Todd Helton (120.5 ADP) could finish with spectacular numbers in range of a .310-.325 BA, 15-20 HRs, 95-105 RBIs and 75-85 runs. Considering where he was typically drafted, that, my friends, would be man-crush territory.

Butler, recently acquired straight up for Kevin Youkilis, Fausto Carmona and Kelly Johnson in Yahoo! Plus league swaps, is one beast of burden your championship aspirations should ride on this season.

Here are this week’s flames, lames and stars of video games:

Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Kerry Wood RP -- 82.5
'08 Stats (Spring): 10.0 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10:0 K:BB, 1 S
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: The recently ordained Cubs closer is out to prove he's hickory strong and not cedar soft. Despite Lou Pinellas's blatantly obvious hints, many owners refused to believe that the fragile converted starter would triumph over flamethrower Carlos Marmol this spring. Well, just as I predicted weeks ago, he did. In 10.0 spring innings, Wood's command was impeccable, notching a 10:0 K:BB split. More importantly, the velocity on his fastball routinely registered between 95 and 98 mph on the gun. Skeptics will continue to discredit the 30-year-old veteran because of his long history of DL stints, which is understandable. However, with an inner drive to prove his critics wrong, Wood will thrive in his new role. With the Cubs expected to be a viable NL contender this season, it's certainly possible the artist formerly known as Kid K, will emerge as one of the league's elite closers. Classify him alongside such notable top-15 stoppers as Matt Capps, Manny Corpas and Rafael Soriano. Projection: 65 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 76 K, 4 W, 36 S
Johnny Cueto SP -- N/A
'08 Stats (Spring): 13.2 IP, 5.27 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 12:9 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: El Toro de Bebe (the Baby Bull) has captivated the minds of fantasy owners, and Dusty Baker, with an electrifying spring. Cool as a cucumber, the 22-year-old Dominican dandy aggressively attacks hitters with the savvy of a 10-year vet. Equipped with a deadly arsenal, which includes a hard-biting, mid-80s slider and plus curve, Cueto's most lethal pitch is his blazing 93-94 mph fastball that occasionally smokes the gun at 97 mph. In 161.1 IP between High-A and Triple-A last season, he amassed an eye-popping 9.49 K/9, 3.07 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Slotted into the No. 3 spot in the Reds rotation, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound hurler has the stuff and bravado to be an effective back-of-the-rotation starter in 12-team mixed leagues. However, it's imperative to keep expectations realistic. At times he'll appear dominant, but on other occasions, as seen in his 0.2 IP, 5 ER, 5 BBs implosion versus Tampa on Mar. 23, his polish will vanish. Given Cueto's callowness, unfriendly home surroundings and Dusty's destructive history, expect a finishing 2008 line around 160 IP, 4.12 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 149 Ks, 9 Ws. Expect Cueto to hit Y! waivers possibly as early as next week. However, unless you're in an NL-only keeper league, don't spend your top waiver priority. Honestly, Edison Volquez could be the brightest youngster in the Cincy rotation this season.
Carlos Gomez OF -- 1.6
'08 Stats (Spring): 56 at-bats, .286 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 13 R, 10 SB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: Gomez, acquired in the blockbuster Johan Santana deal, is a Minnesota Missile. Officially named the Twinkies starting centerfielder on March 24, the ultra-quick 22-year-old is similar in style to Jerry Owens and Eugenio Velez. Playing for Single-A Hagerstown and Double-A Binghamton in the Mets organization from '05-'06, the fleet-footed outfielder totaled a combined 105 swipes. Given his blistering bat speed, leadoff spot in the Twinkies' order and rubber-burning wheels, Gomez could vie for the American League stolen base crown this season. However, with a horrendous 11:2 K:BB split in 56 spring at-bats, his OBP and BA numbers could suffer if he doesn't quickly learn patience. Ron Gardenhire, who was the eighth-most aggressive manager on the basepaths last season, has historically never been fond of red lights, which means he could register 35-plus steals and 85-plus runs with an OBP of .330 or better. Owners with a need for speed should scour the wire immediately for the hypersonic outfielder.
Eugenio Velez 2B -- 0.94
'08 Stats (Spring): 76 at-bats, .303 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 15 R, 14 SB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: The loss of Kevin Frandsen to a ruptured Achilles rockets the San Francisco speed demon's value skyward. In 76 at-bats, the Vince Coleman of spring training base burglars is 14-for-17 in stolen base attempts. Unlike most speed-exclusive players (e.g. Juan Pierre), the switch-hitting former Rule 5 pick possesses adequate gap power, especially from the left side of the plate. Last season, logging 407 at-bats between Double-A and the senior club, the 22-year-old gazelle swiped 58 bags and posted a sensational .351 OBP. With Ray Durham a walking corpse and the subject of trade rumors, it's possible Velez could accumulate 300-plus at-bats this season splitting time between second and center. Given his high contact rates and relatively keen eye, it's plausible he could steal 30 bags and be a serviceable source of runs. Although second base is loaded this season with quality talent, Velez is a worthy pick-up in all 14-team and deeper mixed leagues.
Alexei Ramirez 2B, SS, OF -- N/A
'08 Stats (Spring): 58 at-bats, .345 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 10 R, 0 SB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: Ramirez, one of the more mysterious players this spring, has shed his cloak of obscurity and emerged a viable fantasy prospect. Expected to be added to Y! free agent pools sometime next week, Ramirez is a fantasy Swiss Army knife who will likely be eligible at three positions (2B, SS and OF) at some point this season. Scouts have raved about the Cuban defector's smooth, line-drive stroke, superb contact rates and above-average power. In 521 Cuban League games from 2001-2007, Ramirez laced a .334 BA, totaled 73 homers and drove in 328 runners. An intelligent player who has a natural grasp for the nuances of the game, Ramirez is expected to platoon with Pablo Ozuna and Juan Uribe at second and be a temporary fill in for Jerry Owens, who is on the 15-day DL with a groin injury, in center. During the first half of April, consider Ramirez a respectable middle infielder/utility player in Grand Canyon-deep mixed formats. Although he's showcased more of a prosthetic hook than a glove at times at second, his offensive contributions will likely earn him at least a semi-regular role by June. For now, view the 26-year-old as a more versatile and faster version of Freddy Sanchez. With 350 at-bats expect an end season line around: .295 BA, 12 HRs, 59 RBIs, 66 Rs and 8 SBs.
Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Rich Hill SP -- 99.7
'08 Stats (Spring): 17.2 IP, 6.11 ERA, 2.03 WHIP, 15:15 K:BB
Market Value: Hold
Lowdown: Because of Hill's horrific spring, the record playing on my cranium jukebox isn't Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight," it's J. Geils' "Love Stinks" – Yeah, yeah! My main fantasy flame has had a tumultuous spring, to say the least. In 17.2 innings, the 29-year-old southpaw has walked a deplorable 15 batters and posted an equally detestable 6.11 ERA. Capped by a six-walk implosion versus Colorado on March 21, Hill's string of awful performances is worrisome. Lou Piniella has been steadfast that Hill's velocity and rotation on his pitches have been consistent, suggesting that his shortcomings are mental. Despite his recent problems, a standout '08 is still in the forecast. Although erratic at times last season, the Cubs tosser showed significant improvements in several departments, most notably in K/9 ('06: 8.15, '07: 8.45), BB/9 (3.53, 2.91), FB% (51.6, 42.9) and GB% (30.0, 36.0). It's possible his spring struggles could spill over into April, but entering his peak pitching years it seems unlikely Hill would suffer a Rick Ankiel-like nuclear fallout. If he can shake off the rust and regain his focus, which I steadfastly believe he will, the nastiest hammer thrower in baseball will be the stellar No. 2 we projected he would be. Keep the faith.
Francisco Liriano SP -- 99.6
'08 Stats (Spring): 10.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, 8:7 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: Many owners, including yours truly, were quick to jump the gun on Liriano's return from Tommy John surgery. In MockDraftCentral drafts, the bazooka-armed southpaw was drafted around pick 115 on average, ahead of healthier commodities like Matt Cain, Brett Myers and Chad Billingsley. Although he dazzled in his March 23 appearance, tossing four innings of shutout ball with five strikeouts and two walks, Liriano's velocity peaked at 94 mph, some 3-4 ticks below his pre-surgery speed. More disconcerting, his lack of confidence in his slider, his most catastrophic pitch, has made him mortal. Until Liriano feels comfortable with his money pitch, his numbers will suffer. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said he wants "to do the right things" with Liriano, implying that his future ace may need some time in the minors to reconstruct his confidence. Even with one last strong spring outing, it's probably best the 24-year-old fireballer bales hay on the farm for the first month or two of the season. If he cannonballs into your waiver pool, throw a life preserver for him immediately. Sure the monstrous Liriano of 2006 probably won't resurface until at least June, but once he recaptures his command and moxie, he'll again be one of the most desired young guns in fantasy.
Juan Pierre OF -- 99.3
'08 Stats (Spring): 73 at-bats, .192 BA, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 8 R, 6 SB
Market Value: Strong Sell
Lowdown: For the entire spring, Pierre's wheels have been parked in the garage with the engine running and the door closed. In reality, Pierre is a leadoff abomination. His intolerable sub -.335 OBP in three consecutive seasons, lowly 4.9 BB% since 2005 and suspect defense have labeled him arguably the most over-hyped hitter in baseball. But, in fantasy terms, Pierre's adroit stolen base skills have made him highly desirable. However, that's about to change. Upstart Andre Ethier has embarrassed Pierre in the field and at the plate this spring, which could force the 30-year-old veteran into a reduced role. In 73 dreadful spring at-bats, Pierre has slapped a pathetic .192 BA and posted an equally disgraceful .253 OBP. Meanwhile, Ethier has tallied a magnificent .488 OBP, .369 BA, six homers and 15 RBIs. Joe Torre has been tight-lipped about who will win trot out to left on Opening Day, but based on spring performance, it appears Pierre's days as a regular are in jeopardy. Since there is an abundance of speed currently available on waivers in a majority of Y! leagues (e.g. Carlos Gomez, Dave Roberts and Nate McLouth), Pierre is expendable.
Evan Longoria 3B -- 75.9
'08 Stats (Spring): 42 at-bats, .262 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 12 R, 2 SB
Market Value: Hold
Lowdown: Above Andrew Friedman's office door there must be a sign that reads, "Committed to being hopelessly mediocre." Regardless if demoting Longoria to Triple-A was an economically influenced transaction or not – Friedman claims it was not a motivating factor – it was an unintelligent move. Yes, several offspeed pitches made the super prospect look foolish at times this spring, but his .262 BA, three homers, 10 RBIs and astounding .407 OBP notched in 42 at-bats undeniably outclassed opening day starter Willy Aybar. Equally as baffling, Longoria appeared more polished defensively than the journeyman utility infielder. Ultimately, Longoria's additional time in Durham – he only recorded 104 at-bats there last season – will be beneficial in the long run. If the 22-year-old can lay off outside pitches, he could be the most profitable offensive rookie this season. Stash him on your bench and count the days until June 1. Even with 400 at-bats, he's capable of tallying a .275-plus BA with 18-24 homers and abundant RBIs.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, 1B -- 97.3
'08 Stats (Spring): 32 at-bats, .250 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: After losing the starting backstop job to the more defensively efficient Gerald Laird, the Sultan of Sodium, and his owners, are feeling a little salty. Still very green behind the dish, the 22-year-old Saltalamacchia would benefit greatly from full-time work at Triple-A, but Rangers management is still toying with the idea of breaking camp with the switch-hitting youngster. Even if that did occur, Salty's fantasy value would be rather miniscule. With primary DH Frank Catalanotto a more serviceable hitter versus righties, Salty would earn most of his at-bats against southpaws – not a promising proposition. Unless Laird or Catalanotto were felled by a significant injury, it seems likely the former Braves top prospect will be limited to roughly 300 at-bats. Hang onto him in all keeper and AL-only formats, but cutting Salty in favor of full-timers Josh Bard (4.8 percent owned) or Chris Snyder (6.7 percent owned) in yearly mixed leagues would be a sage move.

Don't know what FB% means? Check out our sabermetric glossary.
Y!RNK - Overall player ranking in Yahoo! leagues
Y!% - Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues
*All stats listed are for games played through Mar. 25

Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Joe Borowski? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?

Brad, I must admit, I'm not a fan. In fact, I think you're somewhat of a space cadet, although that's nothing you wouldn't admit to. Why I'm writing is because I almost killed myself laughing when I read your stolen base column. The line about doing Jagerbombs on the eve of your draft was hilarious because as I sat in my draft chair, navigating through the 26 selection rounds, I was polishing off many a Jagerbomb and an 18 pack of Bud to boot.Dave, Caledonia, Ontario

Noise: Dave, I'm sure during your online navigations you also "researched" Jessica Canseco's rather hefty on-base percentage. After doing some internal investigations of my own, A-Rod's alleged pursuit of Jose's then wife is somewhat explainable. Heck, even "augmentation expert" Debbie Clemens would agree.

"Oh, and the odds of Hart being attacked by a rogue sliding-glass door are smaller than Pence's." Funny stuff. I actually spit my coffee on the keyboard when I read that. Thanks for the mess, jerk. This, of course, came from your Spin Doctors article arguing in Hart's favor over Pence. In all seriousness, keep up the good writing. The columns are great. Ian, (Go O's !!!)Ian, Baltimore, MD

I just wanted to point out that I noticed you strung the words "mammoth knockers" together in your Josh Fields paragraph. Intentional? It's even funnier that you mentioned Prince Fielder in the same sentence, who coincidentally has a pair of man-boobs himself that rivals his father's.Charles, Salt Lake City, UT

Noise: Svelte Gillette pitchmen Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Thierry Henry couldn't hold a candle to a "Bro" ad campaign featuring lard lords Fielder, Bartolo Colon and Bob Wickman. Those guys could definitely use some upper-body support.

On a separate note, Fields' demotion to Triple-A is perplexing and frustrating. In 50 spring at-bats, broken Joe Crede looked like a player who had missed several months recuperating from back surgery, notching a .180 batting average. Meanwhile Fields, who jacked a homer once every 16.2 at-bats last season, hit 88 points higher in 41 Cactus League at-bats. Clearly he was more deserving of an opening day spot than Crede. Unfortunately, because of Crede's burdensome $5.1 million contract, the ChiSox had difficulties attracting trade interest. Fields' reassignment to Triple-A, like Evan Longoria's, is a colossal waste of his talents.

For now, Fields supporters better hope Crede has a searing start, otherwise it will be extremely difficult for Kenny Williams to unload his contract. Because of Fields' gargantuan power upside, the languished corner-man is someone to hold onto in 14-team and deeper mixed leagues. But he is expendable in shallower formats. Once he resurfaces, probably sometime in June, anticipate the 25-year-old bomber to compile similar power totals in 350-400 at-bats as he accomplished in the same number of plate appearances as last season. Owners in AL-only keeper leagues may want to pitch an offer while his stock is bearish.

Hey, I love your position primer columns and think they are a great help. What is your opinion about B.J. Ryan? Do you think he will bounce back and return to his former dominant form, become a decent player, or fail miserably?Josh, North Providence, RI

Noise: Ryan is hardly going the way of Billy Koch, but a return to domination seems improbable. At this point, I would place him in the "decent player" category alongside lower tiered stoppers Brandon Lyon, C.J. Wilson and Troy Percival.

Ryan is expected to return sometime in early-to-mid May, which would be almost exactly a year after he underwent Tommy John surgery, typical for players who have had the procedure. Yes, he did suffer a minor setback on March 18, but the arm soreness he experienced was not related to his surgically repaired elbow.

At this point, Ryan's prospects of being an effective closer depends solely on Jeremy Accardo's performance over the first month-plus of the season. If Accardo, who was 30-for-35 in save opportunities last year, storms out of the gates, you can guarantee Jays management will slowly ease Ryan back into the role once he's healthy. Assuming he doesn't suffer any setbacks, target Ryan to return to full-time end-game duties sometime in June. If you're desperate for bullpen help, pitching an offer for Ryan now would be a wise move. I'm confident he'll successfully convert some 20-25 save chances this year.

Please plug Brad Evans' pie hole if he can't speak normally. I am a die-hard fantasy player but I NEVER pay any attention to Evans' analysis due to embarrassment. He sounds like an over-trying juvenile and makes my skin crawl. Please just be normal like the rest of us! GEEZ! Yahoo!, STOP him!!Mark, Dallas, TX

Noise: "Stop him?" Your description makes me sound like some thuggish criminal who steals purses from innocent grandmothers. Sorry Mark, but not even Spider-man can save you from the Noise. Only your mute button has that power.

Apparently, because of my polarizing approach to covering virtual sports, I'm the Hillary Clinton of fantasy writers. However, unlike Senator Clinton, I've actually experienced intense sniper fire on a tarmac in Bosnia. Or was it Boston?

This time each year a small number of readers inundate my inbox with vitriolic messages that demean my boisterous personality and flamboyant writing style. Some readers politely tell me dial it down a notch, while most recommend I consult for alternative employment. Look, I'm not the most knowledgeable, clever or humorous "expert" out there, but I'm hardly an "embarrassment." The energy and passion I pour into the subject rivals anyone in the biz. Whether you turn to me for advice or not is up to you, but the "juvenile" remarks I make are just the Noise, being the Noise. Hopefully, one day I too will triumphantly hoist an oversized check for a million Yen over my head.

You have an unhealthy fascination with guys' butts. Your Speed-O-Meter column should have read I-Like-Men's-Asses.Paul, Matawan, NJ

Noise: Recently, I've come to the realization that in a former life I was a successful proctologist who ran a burgeoning practice on Chicago's north side. My name was Dr. Seymour F. Butts – the "F" standing for Franken. Kaz Matsui and Mike Piazza were regular clients.

Yes, my musings about male backsides is an unhealthy obsession that I'm currently receiving therapy for. But believe me. It takes a great deal of courage to refrain from making comments about Jonathan Broxton's rather ginormous ba-donka-donk.