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Why The Royals Won't Make Billy Butler Available

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Recently, the Royals front office came out and said that two names were untouchable on the current roster: Zack Greinke and Billy Butler. The former is, of course, the Royals ace and the Cy Young winner from last year (although here's hoping he returns to form the rest of this year). The latter is intriguing because of his being singled out as the only hitter not available.

The reason for the intrigue is that a quick glance arguably won't make you look twice. Last season, the first baseman hit .301 with 21 home runs and 91 RBI. Those are nice numbers and certainly nothing to frown at. It's also not earth-shattering. First basemen is a hitter's position, and those numbers have been reached exactly 722 other times (according to Baseball Reference) by players not named Billy Butler in MLB history.

In other words, looking at those simple stats, it seems Butler is a decent first baseman -- hardly someone you tell everyone else to not even bother bidding for. Unless you look beneath the surface. It's there you find that Butler is one of the most exciting young batters in all of baseball.

Consider the fact that Butler was only 23 last season when he had the year that he did. With increased playing time from the previous year, Butler's eye adjusted fully to the major league level and the results were an incredible leap -- specifically in slugging percentage which almost went up an entire point from .400 to .492. In young hitters, power develops over time which is why you often see guys hitting more homers at the ML level than they did in the minors, and Butler still has room to grow.

Want proof? How about his 51 doubles last year, which ranked second in the American League behind Brian Roberts? Doubles turn into homers eventually for most young hitters and those power numbers should only continue to grow as Butler grows more comfortable in his own skin and as he learns to see the ball better as he goes along. This season, the slugging is down just a bit, but it's clear he's actually seeing the ball better as his strikeouts have dramatically decreased from 103 all of last season to only 38 thus far in 2010.

Given another season or two, Butler should be averaging around 30-35 homers and 100+ RBI, a sign of a top-flight first baseman. The Royals know they have something great on their hands, so it's no surprise when you look under the surface that Butler is not available.