- Full name Billy Ray Butler
- Born 04/18/1986 in Orange Park, FL
- Profile Ht.: 6'0" / Wt.: 260 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Samuel W. Wolfson
- Debut 05/01/2007
Drafted in the 1st round (14th overall) by the Kansas City Royals in 2004 (signed for $1,450,000).
View Draft ReportButler looks best in the batter's box, and scouts are eager to see him with wood instead of metal in his hands. He'll have to move across the diamond to first, or with plus arm strength that helps him throw 93 mph off the mound, move to a corner outfield spot, but he has the raw power to make the move work. Butler has a mature approach. He trusts his quick hands and allows balls to get deep in the zone, giving him excellent loft power. He has natural rhythm to his swing and excellent hand-eye and body coordination. He hasn't always stayed patient this year while being pitched around--he hit .597-10-39 a year ago, and only .419-4-13 this year--but like his teammate Hurley, he performed well down the stretch. He's a Florida recruit but is considered signable and could get in to the first two rounds.
Organization Prospect Rankings
In 2004, Butler and Eric Hurley (Rangers) made Jacksonville Wolfson the fifth high school ever to produce two first-rounders in the same draft. Somewhat of a surprise selection at No. 14, Butler has justified the pick by hitting .344/.417/.564 as a pro. He won the Texas League batting title and the Futures Game MVP award in 2006, and capped the year by hitting .313 while helping Team USA qualify for the 2008 Olympics. With excellent bat speed, balance and a cerebral approach, Butler has no real weakness as a hitter. He has great plate coverage and will hit the ball where it is pitched. He has the best raw power in the system and is still learning how to turn on inside pitches. He's content to go the other way, particularly with runners on base. While there are no questions about his bat, Butler's defense is another story. Drafted as a third baseman, he since has moved to the outfield. His arm is strong enough for right field, but his speed is below average and his routes and footwork need plenty of work. There are no doubts that Butler has the bat to be an all-star, but his lack of defensive skills might mean his future is as a DH. He desperately wants to prove he can play the outfield and the Royals will give him every chance to do so in Triple-A this year. His bat could force him to Kansas City by midseason.
When the Royals drafted Butler 14th overall in 2004, most clubs viewed it as a signability pick--his $1.45 million bonus was $250,000 less than MLB's slot recommendation. He and righthander Eric Hurley, who went 30th to the Rangers, made Jacksonville's Wolfson High the fifth high school to produce a pair of first-rounders in the same draft. Butler has more than justified his selection, and he ranked third in the minors with 300 total bases and fifth with 71 extra-base hits in 2005. Butler is such a mature hitter already that instructors leave him alone and he's able to make adjustments on his own between at-bats. He succeeds because of his impressive bat speed, strength, vision, balance and confidence at the plate. He centers the ball well, uses the whole field and generates above-average power without sacrificing the ability to hit for average. Butler controls the strike zone and attacks pitches in his wheelhouse. He reached 90 mph as a prep pitcher, so he has arm strength. Drafted as a third baseman, Butler lacked the athleticism and footwork for the position, so he moved to left field, where the hope is that he can become adequate. He's a below-average runner. His hitting mechanics aren't typical-- his stance is open and spread out with his hands held high, and he uses a toe tap for timing--but they work for him. Butler should develop into an all-star-caliber offensive player along the lines of Travis Hafner. Left field is Butler's position for now, but most scouts think he's destined for first base or DH. He'll begin 2006 in Double-A, and the Royals don't know what they'll do if his bat becomes major league ready before his defense is passable.
Area scout Cliff Pastornicky helped the Royals decide to select Zack Greinke in 2002, selling them on his precocious feel for pitching. Greinke held the top spot on this list from that point until he made his major league debut on May 22, 2004. Two weeks later, Pastornicky and the Royals found Greinke's successor atop this list by cutting a predraft deal to sign Butler for $1.45 million--$250,000 below Major League Baseball's recommendation for the 14th overall pick. He would have attended Florida had he not turned pro. Like Greinke, Butler is a Florida high schooler who's very advanced for his age, and he too could move quickly through the system. Butler and righthander Eric Hurley (30th overall to the Rangers) made Jacksonville's Wolfson High the fifth high school to produce two first-rounders in the same draft. Butler instantly became the best hitting and power prospect in the organization. Using a patient approach and line-drive mentality, he led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in batting and ranked second in extra-base hits. Butler's stance looks unorthodox--he stands very open and spread out, holding his hands high and tapping his toes before engaging the ball--but has quick hands and excellent hand-eye coordination that allow him to let the ball get deep in the zone and to make quick adjustments. He centers the ball well, uses the whole field and generates natural loft without slipping into the uppercut swing plane that befalls many power hitters. He has the best raw pop of any player in the 2004 draft. Pitchers weren't able to sneak fastballs or sliders by him in his pro debut. Some Pioneer League scouts questioned Butler's maturity, but the Royals love his makeup. He displays ample confidence and was well-liked by his Idaho Falls teammates. He also possesses a strong arm that propelled fastballs up to 93 mph when he pitched in high school. If Butler rates as a certainty with the bat, his glove is the complete opposite. He must improve his flexibility to enhance his range at third base. He can catch the ball, but isn't fluid when doing so. Though he has plenty of arm strength, he must set his feet better to avoid throwing errors. At best, the Royals hope Butler can become an average defender who makes the routine plays. He eventually may have to move to first base, and has the hands and the bat to profile well at this position. Butler is a below-average runner but not a baseclogger, so left field also could be a possibility. Some scouts are so skeptical of his defensive ability that they think he'll be limited to DH. Butler rates as one of the few players in the system with all-star potential. His offensive abilities outstrip his defensive deficiencies and should allow him to rise quickly up the ladder. He'll begin 2005 at low Class A Burlington and could be ready for Kansas City at some point in 2007. He's the Royals' No. 3 hitter of the future.
Minor League Top Prospects
With a Texas League batting title in 2006 and a second-place finish in the California League in 2005 to his credit, Butler had proven himself as one of the minor league's best pure hitters. He did nothing to dispel that notion with Omaha, where he hit .291 with power and drew more walks than strikeouts. The Royals called him up for the first time in early May. Butler has a lot of confidence as a hitter and isn't afraid to battle the pitcher with two strikes until he gets something he can drive. A balanced and cerebral hitter, he handles the bat well and makes fast adjustments to breaking balls. He has tremendous plate coverage and above-average power. Drafted 14th overall in 2004 as a third baseman, Butler has struggled to find a defensive home. The Royals tried to develop him as a left fielder, but he struggled in his routes and angles to the ball with Omaha, and his arm is below-average. He moved to first base after rejoining Omaha in mid-May, and he showed decent actions there. The Royals, though, chose to make him a full-time DH in the majors.
If anyone doubted Butler's potential as a hitter, he proved his legitimacy by leading the Texas League in batting (.331), winning the Futures Game MVP award with a game-winning two-run homer and anchoring the middle of Team USA's lineup during its successful run through the Olympic qualifying tournament in August. Some managers liked Butler's hitting skills better than Gordon's and said he understands the art of hitting a little bit better, showing a better two-strike approach and moving the ball around the field more. The questions about Butler remain on defense. Though he improved in the outfield, most observers said they can't see him playing there and envision him as a first baseman or DH.
One of the youngest players in the league at 19, Butler showed no ill effects from skipping low Class A. He dominated pitchers often 3-4 years his senior, hitting at least .331 in every month while driving in nearly a run per game, and continued to mash after a promotion to Double-A. Other than below-average speed, which plays no role in his style of play, Butler has no offensive weaknesses. He controls the strike zone well, can hit for average and shows plus power to all fields "He's Mike Sweeney Jr.," a National League scout said. "He could be even better than Sweeney." On the negative side, Butler is still a man without a position. Drafted as a third baseman, he had an .842 fielding percentage at the hot corner, and was moved to left field at midseason. His reviews there were still overly poor, though most observers agreed his bat will more than offset his defensive inefficiencies. He could wind up at first base.
Like DeWitt, Butler lived up to his reputation. Considered the top high school power hitter in the draft, he ranked second in the PL with 35 extra-base hits. DeWitt outhomered Butler 12-10, though Butler has more present raw power and future power. His hitting mechanics, while unorthodox, elicit consistent, hard contact and tremendous loft. He won the batting title with a .376 average. "The bat he has coming out of high school is obviously very attractive," Idaho Falls manager Brian Rupp said. "It's a little bit different. I don't think you necessarily teach a kid to hit the way he does. He has a toe tap and a leg kick that make his timing good. He gets the bat through the zone on time the majority of the time, and that is what is kind of scary." Butler's barrel-chested build drew concerns from some managers and he's poor defensively. He was ambitiously drafted as a third baseman but probably will have to move to first base in his near future, though the Royals maintain they'll continue his development at third base. Scouts criticized his immaturity as well.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Kansas City Royals in 2007
- Rated Best Batting Prospect in the Texas League in 2006
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the Kansas City Royals in 2006
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Kansas City Royals in 2005
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the Kansas City Royals in 2005
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Kansas City Royals in 2005