Billy Butler’s Extension: What Does it Mean for Eric Hosmer?

26 01 2011

Posted by Teix4MVP

Dayton Moore signed one of the game’s young dangerous hitters to an extension, locking up  first baseman Billy Butler until 2014 with an option for a fifth year. This contract makes him very affordable, as the most he makes is 12.5MM in 2015 if the Royals pick up his option that year. While that’s very good and all, there’s a looming problem at hand: Eric Hosmer. Hosmer is another 1B within the Royals stellar farm system. Hosmer was arguably the best high school hitter in the 2008 Draft, and was taken 3rd overall by the Royals. He played 3 games in Rookie League Idaho Falls, and hit .364.

The following year, Hosmer was moved up to Class A Burlington,  and had a respectable slash line of .254/.352/.384 in 79 games. He moved up to Class A+ Wilmington for 27 games that year, however he struggled, with a slash line of .206/.280/.299. That was all at age 19 in 2009, and overall he hit just 6 home runs. At age 20, he again returned to Wilmington last season and hit a sizzling .354/.429/.545 with 7 home runs in 87 games. The Royals decided to move Hosmer up to Double-A  Northwest Arkansas, and he responded with 13 home runs and a slash line of .313/.365/.615 in the 50 games there. His defense has also been very good.

Eric Hosmer is a very promising prospect in Kansas City's stellar farm system.

With those stats, it wouldn’t be crazy at all to assume that the Royals will move Eric up to Triple A Omaha during this year, or even to start the year. Most likely, a Double A callup to Triple A will come for Hosmer in mid-2011. That means it also wouldn’t be crazy to say that Hosmer should be ready by mid to late 2012, which is what I believe will be the case if injuries don’t get in the way. But the problem still exists: What will they do with him with Butler locked in at 1st?

There’s a comparable situation in baseball for the Cincinatti Royals. Joey Votto, the league’s reigning MVP, is signed through the next three years, blocking another first baseman with the Reds, Yonder Alonso. Alonso was moved up to Triple-A this season, and hit .296/.355/.470 there at age 23. The Reds are going to look to try Alonso at an outfield position this season, but his best position is at first. The Reds could probably trade him for more prospects this summer or perhaps trade him in a deal to acquire a piece to help them during a playoff run, like the Twins did with blocked catcher Wilson Ramos when they acquired Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals.

So, what can the Royals do with Hosmer? There are 3 ways I envision them handling things:

1. Trade him. I seriously doubt this happening, but it could. Hosmer would surely net a very good return for the Royals farm system. They could get a blue chip outfield guy and/or a very good pitcher for him. Hosmer is ranked second on many lists I’ve looked at for the Royals Top Prospects, so you have to imagine they’d need a very good return in order for him to get pried away. Heck, they’d have to get  BLOWN away by an offer if they were to deal the guy only ranked behind Mike Moustakas for the title of Top Royals’ Prospect.

2. Keep him and move Butler to DH. This solution I find much more likely than anything. Hosmer is very good at manning first, with surprisingly good range and soft hands. His arm is also very strong for a first baseman, making him a rare complete package fielder at first. Meanwhile, Butler isn’t so good. While the 1B UZR formula is pretty screwed up, Butler’s negative UZRs since 2008 make you wonder. If we look at his fielding % it’s not as bad. He’s posted a .995% in 2010 and a .992% in 2008 and 2009. But I’ve seen the guy, he’s really no wiz in the field. Any report you read will mention Butler’s glove as iron. Which makes Hosmer the ideal 1B guy and Butler the guy who could move to DH.

Billy Butler could force Eric Hosmer out of KC, or vice versa.

3. Trade Butler. This is a little bit more likely than the first, but several steps more unlikely than the 2nd. Bear that in mind, folks. When Hosmer comes up in 2012, Butler will be 26 and into the 2nd year of his 4 year contract. That means teams might try to grab him since he has an 8MM contract and could very well be one of the premier hitters in the game by that time. A trade of Butler could earn them a stellar return of at least an A prospect and 2 Bs. This could very well be what they need to finish off their young nucleus and finally be good. And Hosmer would get that position spot left open by Butler. This probably won’t happen, but at least it makes SOME sense.

4. Move Hosmer to the outfield. Didn’t originally want to put this one in, but let’s put it here for arguments’ sake. Hosmer could be a player who could be suited for the outfield because of his arm and surprising range. Butler could remain at first and problems would be solved. Except I don’t think Hosmer would be a good outfielder. His speed is below average, and Kauffman stadium is a doubles and triples type of park. I think Hosmer is just like Mark Teixeira. He’s a great fielder at first base, but he can’t play any other position. So I could be wrong, but I don’t envision this one happening.

Hosmer is up and coming for the Royals team. What do you guys think about this little situation?

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Yuniesky Betancourt: The Most Interesting Man In The World

22 08 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

Yuniesky Betancourt is an interesting fellow. Ask some people about him and they’ll praise him. Ask others and they’ll scold him and deem him one of the worst players in all of baseball. So who is right about this Cuban defector? In my view, Betancourt is one of those players where we find beauty and usefulness in sabermetrics. Here’s why.

Betancourt hit his career-high 13th homer on Saturday.

Using conventional stats such as batting average, RBI, and even home runs, Betancourt seems like a totally acceptable offensive shortstop. For instance, Betancourt is a career .273 hitter. He has had 3 seasons with 50 or more RBI. And this year, he has 13 home runs, as well as 61 runs batted in after a day in which he absolutely owned White Sox pitching. As a shortstop, these numbers look more than acceptable. Add on the fact that most scouts like his fielding ability (this was one of his supposed strengths when he was signed by Seattle) and you have yourself a decent-sounding Major League shortstop.

But what about the flip side? Oh, where to start? Yuniesky Betancourt has a career .297 OBP. He makes outs more than 70% of the time. The reason for this low OBP is his lack of walks. He has a career 3.2% walk rate. That’s about 6% lower than league average. This is due to the fact that he swings at 32% of the pitches outside of the zone, compared to the 25% league average. On top of that, he makes lots of contact, almost way too much contact (88.1%). If you’re not good at identifying pitches and you are making lots of contact, more likely than not, that is going to be weak contact.

So while Betancourt’s .273 average may be the result of his high contact rate, that contact rate mixed with his bad plate discipline has also lead to his .395 career slugging percentage as well as his poor .297 OBP. This results in Betancourt being a very bad hitter. He has a career OPS of .692. It’s not a horrible figure, especially at the SS position. But a more advanced stat like wOBA definitely highlights his flaws even more because Betancourt has a career wOBA of .298 (FYI, league average is around .330). So I think one thing is certain, Betancourt is a below average hitter. You can vary on the degree of just how bad he is, but to say he is average or above average – that’s pushing it.

Betancourt's fielding has been the subject of much criticism amongst sabermetric proponents and many Royals fans.

So we’ve evaluated his hitting, but no analysis is complete if we don’t mention defense. While Betancourt has been praised by scouts for his arm and his supposed range, most people would tend to disagree, especially sabermetricians. Ask a Royals fan, any objective Royals fan (like Joe Posnanski), and they will say that Betancourt is below average at SS. But as his hitting goes, we can vary on the degree of how bad he really is. UZR says he’s awful, especially in these past few years. His career UZR/150 is at a clip of -8.4. But it gets better, it’s been -11.5, -19.7, and -9.4 these past three seasons. Not a fan of UZR or just looking for more variety? We can try Dewan’s Defensive Runs Saved, where Betancourt is at a career mark of -53. He’s also racked up -46 in the past three seasons alone. Even if we go by fielding percentage, Betancourt has made more than his share of errors (54 in past 3 seasons). So while the scouts might have been semi-right about Yuni’s range early on in his career (DRS had him as average until 2007), he has regressed to a horrendous fielder as of late.

So the  advanced numbers say that Betancourt is a bad to horrible hitter and now a terrible fielder. But since shortstop is a premium position, he has to have some value right? Unfortunately for Betancourt, this is not the case. Entering into this season, Betancourt had a WAR of 1.8 over the course of 4 full seasons. Divide that out if you want, but he’s barely contributed anything to the teams he has played on. He’s a replacement level player, an overrated one at that.

So you may wonder why I am writing about Yuniesky freaking Betancourt and the answer is easy – I’m pissed off that the White Sox lost at the hand of a horrible baseball player. To be quite honest, when I saw Yuniesky’s .271 batting average, his 13 home runs, and his 61 RBI, I immediately thought back to the days where I was ignorant about statistics. If I had looked at those numbers way back when, I might have thought Betancourt was having a very good year. But since I now know better, I looked up his stats on FanGraphs. What do you know? Yuni is still Yuni, except slightly better. His .311 wOBA still sucks and his fielding is about as bad as it ever was. However, I also wrote this because I bet there are a lot of people in Kansas City (including that idiot Dayton Moore) thinking highly of Betancourt right now and honestly, I can’t blame them. Nevertheless, Betancourt will always be a bad baseball player in my eyes and in my opinion, the differing of opinions on players like Betancourt is part of the beauty of sabermetrics.