February 17, 2010
Today we're debating the relative merits of two young first basemen who are separated by very little in the Yahoo! preseason position ranks: Kendry Morales(notes) and Billy Butler(notes). (Before reading on, see if you can guess which player Evans prefers. Here's a clue. And another. And another). In keeping with Spin Doctors tradition, our analysts are limited to just 250 words. Let's play the feud…
Throughout the long, glorious history of the Spin Doctors series, Evans has argued on behalf of many underdogs. You can't accuse him of stat-padding. But this particular battle is as difficult (and ostensibly one-sided) as it gets. Morales beat Butler in all five standard fantasy categories last season, and he had a decisive edge in both home runs (34 to 21) and RBIs (108 to 93). He finished No. 35 in the overall year-end ranks, 53 spots ahead of Butler. And Morales' team outscored Butler's by 197 runs. And he's heading into his first year of arbitration eligibility. And he'll turn 27 in June. And he was a career .332 hitter in the minors, so it's not as if last year's success was surprising.
In short, Morales has absolutely everything going for him in this debate: age, environment, and past on-field performance. The argument on behalf of Butler, I suppose, is that a few of last year's 51 doubles might clear the fence in 2010, and that his post-All Star break batting average (.314) could be sustainable over a full season. He'll definitely need to improve something in order to reach Morales' level.
As the somewhat attractive ladies in the Chicagoland area already know, Andy Behrens is a giver. His overwhelming generosity providing the Noise, a well-known Butler enthusiast, an additional 50 wasteful words to speak in hyperbolic tongues about the modern day Joltin’ Joe/cancer curer/whale saver/son of Zeus...limit achieved.
For years, I’ve rambled on about Mr. Belvedere’s Brettish upside. The former top prospect, who entered very exclusive company last season becoming only the sixth player in MLB history to collect 50 doubles and 20 homers before his 24th birthday, is on the cusp of greatness after racking the 27th-best line among hitters after the break (.315-13-55-41). More importantly, he started driving the baseball more vigorously, indicative in his sharp post-break rise in fly-ball percentage. If is groundhog-torching GB/FB ratio continues to shrink, the perennial .300-30-100-85 beast will be unleashed. As owners witnessed with Aaron Hill(notes) last season, doubles sometimes do stretch into homers.
Butler, substituting carrots for Klondike bars, trimmed down during the offseason, reporting to camp earlier this month leaner and meaner. A humble teammate who takes nothing for granted, he is determined to take his game to the next level. With a little more aggressiveness, it’s conceivable he could transform into a mini-Miggy. He certainly has the plate coverage to become a feared hitter.
Morales is an exceptional, consistent producer in a more potent lineup. However, for thrifty shoppers, Butler is a friggin’ steal. In early drafts, he’s going some 40 picks later and roughly $5 cheaper than the Halo. Though both are still very young, Butler is three years Morales’ junior, the Royals masher, who Baseball America tabbed a future All-Star three years ago, has a significantly higher ceiling.
This is the year the Noise’s annoying, often ridiculous Butler declarations finally prove prophetic.
Photos via US Presswire