Sep 22, 2009, 1:46 PM EDT
They’re still headed for 90-plus losses in a disappointing season, but the Royals have quietly climbed out of last place in the AL Central by going 12-7 in September and Billy Butler has solidified his standing as one of baseball’s best young hitters by going 24-for-70 (.343) with 12 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs, and a 12/12 K/BB ratio this month.
Butler destroyed minor-league pitching after the Royals made him the 14th pick in the 2004 draft, batting at least .300 at every level and .336/.416/.561 in 397 games overall. Now he’s beating up big-league pitching at the age of 23, hitting .314/.381/.537 with 10 homers, 22 doubles, and 47 RBIs in 61 games since the All-Star break.
Plenty of young hitters find success in the majors, but what makes “Bam Bam” unique is that he combines a gaudy batting average with lots of power, solid plate discipline, and a low strikeout rate, all of which bode well for his continued growth as an offensive force. With two weeks remaining he’s hitting an even .300 with 68 extra-base hits, 52 walks, and 93 strikeouts in 620 plate appearances spread over 147 games.
If he can maintain a .300 batting average for the next dozen games while smacking two extra-base hits and avoiding more than six strikeouts, Butler would join some pretty exclusive company. Here’s a complete list of all the 23-year-old hitters in baseball history who’ve managed to bat .300 with at least 70 extra-base hits and 50 walks while striking out fewer than 100 times:
Ted Williams Joe DiMaggio Frank Robinson Hank Aaron Stan Musial Cal Ripken Jr. Lou Gehrig Albert Pujols Fred Lynn Willie Mays Mel Ott Harlond Clift Mickey Mantle Hank Greenberg Hanley Ramirez Ken Griffey Jr. Duke Snider
Not a bad set of names, huh? Butler trying to become the 18th member of that club and Zack Greinke going for the Cy Young award will at least give Royals fans something to root for down the stretch. General manager Dayton Moore and manager Trey Hillman haven’t inspired a whole lot of confidence in Kansas City, but having the 23-year-old Butler and 25-year-old Greinke as long-term building blocks is a pretty nice start.
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