Kansas City has yearned for a franchise player, in all honesty, since the days of George Brett. While no one realistically expects anyone within the Royals organization to put up career numbers that can parallel one of the greatest hitters of all time, is a glimmer of hope too much to ask for? Many great players have made their way to Kansas City; most of them sent packing before hitting the prime of their careers. Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, and Jermaine Dye are three names that make baseball fans in the Midwest cringe. Fans are generally very intelligent about the game, knowing that it’s a business first. At the time, trading away franchise-caliber players like those listed above normally came with decent rationalization. However, when basically all the players who came to Kansas City in return for these stars eventually flamed out without contributing very much, fans began to grow weary.
Let’s fast-forward to the present-day Royals. The annual Winter Meetings have wrapped up in Florida, and there has been a lot of talk of another mega-deal involving the biggest name in Kansas City, Zack Greinke. While nothing appears to be imminent, fans have seen this movie before, and it always ends the same. Chances are that Zack Greinke will be on his way out of town sooner, rather than later. After sending the 2009 A.L. Cy Young Award winner and the team’s most marketable player to another team, where does that leave the Royals franchise?
The most logical answer would be Billy Butler. He would be, by far, the best player remaining on the roster. Fans have been a little indifferent towards Butler, and rightfully so. He is looked highly upon for his above-average offensive numbers. After all, in just four years in the big leagues, he’s hitting just under .300, has finished in the top five in doubles the past two years, and he’s averaging 17 home runs and 84 runs batted in per season. Those are very respectable numbers. More importantly, he’s helped ease the blow of a disappointing stint from one time uber-prospect Alex Gordon. On the flip side, he’s seen primarily as a DH, which is odd for a player who is only 24 years old. That limits the flexibility of manager Ned Yost when setting his lineup, and could also prevent the team from bringing in a big-name veteran player down the road. One of the biggest things that drive fans crazy about Butler is his inept ability to avoid the double play ball. Butler grounded into 32 double plays in 2010, the most in the MLB.
So, what can Royals fans expect from their young leader in 2011? That can be answered in one word: consistency. Butler will hit around .300, with 17-22 home runs, and 80-90 RBIs. That’s what he’s shown that he can do, and there is nothing wrong with those numbers, especially in a lineup that provides minimal protection.
The fact of the matter is that Billy Butler is not a “franchise player.” He’s a very capable hitter who will always be a great sidekick. The only problem is that there is no one else for Royals fans to look to for this upcoming season. This team has their Robin, but they are yearning for their Batman.
That’s only the case for now. Kansas City, quite possibly, has the deepest and most talented farm system in the league. Names like Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer will soon be the talk of the town, and when they finally arrive, there will be one player greeting them with open arms, and that man will be Billy Butler. The Royals are looking to these three young players to be the cornerstones of what they are trying to build in Kansas City. The good thing for Billy Butler is that a team needs more than cornerstones to build a champion, and he is the epitome of a supporting brick.