Thanks to Zack Greinke’s brilliant 2009 Cy Young campaign, baseball fans are now familiar with at least one player on the Kansas City Royals. But there’s another young Royal whose future may be just as bright.
Billy Butler was one of only two players (with Brian Roberts) to top the half-century mark in doubles last season. Butler’s total (51) was 2nd-best in Royals history, behind only Hal McRae’s 54 two-baggers in 1977. Rapping 50 doubles in a season is a solid feat, accomplished only 29 times last decade. Butler also hit 21 home runs, making him one of only 20 players to hit 50 doubles and 20 homers in one season since 2000.
However Butler’s most impressive achievement is to reach both plateaus at such a young age. He was a 1st-round pick in 2004, and he’s been in the majors since 2007, so it’s easy to forget that Butler is still only 23 years old (he turns 24 on April 18). The list of players who have hit 50 doubles by age 23 (defined as age on June 30 of season) is short and impressive, featuring Hall-of-Famers Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter and Hank Greenberg; two future enshrines in Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez; and young stars Miguel Cabrera and Grady Sizemore. Adding in the 20 homers shortens the list even more, knocking Musial and Slaughter off the chart:
50 doubles & 20 HR in a season
At age 23 or younger
Of the quintet that Butler joined on this list, only Pujols ever topped his doubles total over the rest of his career. However, all five of them proceeded to increase their home run totals, which indicates that Butler’s ceiling may be extremely high. To borrow a phrase from Royals broadcaster Fred White, If you want to dream a little, check out Butler’s stats in 2009, his third season in the majors, which are better than the third season of the best Royal ever:
KANSAS CITY ROYALTY
3rd MLB seasons
Odds are that Billy Butler won’t make the Hall of Fame, but his early numbers have him inching that direction.