Billy Ray Butler
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 225-240 lb.
- High School Samuel W. Wolfson High School
- Debut May 1, 2007
Billy Butler burned up the minors, hitting over .300 with power at every stop and came to the majors with the Kansas City Royals in 2007, getting two hits in his debut. He hit .292 as a major league rookie.
In the 2003 junior Pan-Am Cup, Butler hit .414 and slugged .699 for the USA, which won the silver medal. He scored 12 runs, tied for second on the team, and tied Neil Walker for the lead with 5 doubles. He was third in average.
Butler was selected by the Royals in the first round of the 2004 amateur draft. The 14th overall pick, he was the 4th position player taken, following Matt Bush, Chris Nelson and Neil Walker. As a high school senior, he had hit .426 and slugged .691. After signing with scout Cliff Pastornicky for a $1.4 million bonus, he hit .373/.486/.596 for the Idaho Falls Chukars, scoring 74 and driving in 68 in 72 games. He was named the Royals minor league player of the year and the Pioneer League All-Star third baseman. He led the Pioneer League in average, was six points behind Cory Dunlap in OBP, led in runs, tied Brian McFall for the RBI lead and one behind McFall in doubles, having hit 22 of those. Baseball America ranked him as the #4 prospect in the circuit.
Butler began the 2005 season as the third baseman for the High Desert Mavericks but fielded only .842 and was converted to left field. He hit .348/.419/.636 with 25 homers and 91 RBI in 92 games for the Mavericks and was called up to the Wichita Wranglers, where he hit .313/.353/.527 with another 5 homers and 19 RBI. He was again named the Royals minor league player of the year. Baseball America rated him the 5th-best California League prospect, he made the Cal League All-Star team at DH, was the league's Rookie of the Year and lost the batting title by one point to Miguel Montero and was 9 OBP points behind leader Kila Ka'aihue; his slugging was 36 points behind Brandon Wood.
Billy batted .331/.388/.499 for Wichita in 2006 to lead the Texas League in batting average and was fourth with 96 RBI. He went 2 for 3 with a 2-run homer in the 2006 Futures Game and was honored with the Larry Doby Award as the game's brightest star. He finished 10th in the US-based minors in average that year. He was rated as the top batting prospect in the Texas League according to Baseball America.
After a good first month in AAA in 2007, in which he hit .337/.445/.584 with 23 RBI in 25 games for the Omaha Royals, Billy Butler was called up to the Major Leagues on May 1st and made his major league debut as the Royals' starting left fielder the same day, collecting two hits in four at bats. Butler hit .292/.347/.447 as a regular for the 2007 Royals for a 105 OPS+. He was used primarily at DH.
In spring training 2008, the Royals came to the conclusion that Billy would be a career DH. He played exclusively DH in his first nine games of the season. Butler batted .263/.330/.339 in the first 53 games of the Royals' campaign and was sent down to Omaha while Mike Aviles was called up.
In 2009, as the Royals' first baseman, Billy joined very elite company by recording over 20 home runs and over 50 doubles; his 51 doubles placed him second in the American League, behind Brian Roberts. He hit .301 with 93 RBI that season. In 2010, he fell back slightly, hitting .318 but with only 15 homers and 78 RBI.
During a game on July 29, 2011 against the Cleveland Indians, Billy hit two home runs, and was at the center of both teams' benches clearing when Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco threw at Butler's head one pitch after Royals centerfielder Melky Cabrera hit a grand slam. That season was his third straight with 40 or more doubles, as he ended with 44, to go along with 19 homers and 95 RBI, and a batting average of .291. Now entrenched as the Royals' full-time DH with Eric Hosmer playing 1B, he another excellent offensive season in 2012, hitting .313 with career highs in homers with 29 and RBIs with 107. In 2013, he played in all 162 games for the Royals, hitting .289 with 15 homers and 82 RBI as the Royals finally showed some signs of life after years of being in the cellar. he only played 7 games at first base that season, with the remainder of his playing time coming as a DH. On April 7th, he set a Royals team record by driving in 7 runs in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies; the record was broken by Mike Moustakas in 2015.
It was the same pattern in 2014, although he did get to play 37 games at first base as manager Ned Yost used a bit more flexibility with his starting line-ups. He played 151 games and had some of the poorest numbers of his career, with 8 homers, 66 RBI and a .271 average; his OPS+ was down to 95, his first time below 100 since 2008. However, the Royals finally got over the hump, returning to the postseason for the first time since the 1985 World Series. The veteran Butler was one of the leaders of the young team as it went on a wild ride that took it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before falling to the San Francisco Giants. He went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs in the Wild Card Game, and after being held hitless as the Royals swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ALDS, he hit .286 in the ALCS and .333 in the World Series, although he did not connect for a home run all postseason.
On November 18, 2014, after becoming a free agent, Butler signed a three-year deal with the Oakland Athletics for $30 million. Playing for Oakland in 2015, he got into 151 games during which he hit .251 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs. He was the team's regular DH, but his OPS+ was once gain below average at 98. He improved slightly in 2016, but on August 19th, he made the news for getting into a clubhouse fight with teammate Danny Valencia. While the A's did not want to give too many details, he apparently suffered a concussion which landed him on the disabled list. He came back on August 29th, but played sparingly from that point forward, only going 1-for-11 before the A's announced on September 11th that they were releasing him, eating up $10 million in salary due the following season. In 85 games, he had hit .276 with only 4 homers and 31 RBIs, good for an OPS+ of 102.
Main sources: 2005-2007 Baseball Almanacs
- AL All-Star (2012)
- AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2012/DH)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2009 & 2012)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (2012)