Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Evan Longoria. All three players came into the year with expectations, albeit different levels. Butler was thought of as a solid corner infield option in mixed leagues. Gordon was being looked at as a decent outfield option in AL-only leagues. Longoria? He was taken as a top-10 overall pick and was thought to be a potential AL MVP candidate. How have the three done to this point of the season? You already know the answer, but I have to write about something...
Billy Butler: .297-13-60-50-1 in 397 at-bats On June 25th Butler was hitting .285 with seven homers and 42 RBI. He was roundly viewed as a colossal failure. He's changed those opinions the past 10 days. Over his last nine games Butler has raised his average to .297. That's not a shock since he owns a career mark of .298. It's been the massive power surge that has caught everyone's attention. In those nine games Butler has hit six homers, remember he had seven in his first 100 games, and he's driven in 18 runs. That recent run puts Butler on pace to produce a fantasy season of .297-18-87-72. Given that his average effort the last two years has been .309-18-86-78, are you really surprised?
The moral of the story is to remain patient. How many of you bailed on Butler a month ago only to loose out on his massive hot streak? Since Butler entered the bigs there have been few players who have been more consistent from year to year. He likely never become an elite performer, but that doesn't mean you should overlook him merely because of a slump here and there.
Evan Longoria: .224-15-56-41-1 in 345 at-bats His season has been ruined by injury. Somehow Longoria is hitting .224 on the year, and it's not like his work has improved of late as his average has fallen to .181 over his last 116 at-bats. Oddly, his walk rate is a career best while his K-rate is a career low. The result is a .224 average with a 0.75 BB/K mark, and we don't see that very often. Part of the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of his .230 BABIP which is only .076 points below his career rate. That mark just doesn't jibe with an 18.6 line drive rate.
However, let's be fair to Longoria. If he were to maintain his current pace over 150 games he would produce 28 homers, 104 RBI and 76 runs (he went 22-104-96 last year). That's a lot closer to his level of production from last year than you probably thought. However, injuries have sapped his ability to steal bases leaving him with one theft this year after averaging 10 a season the last three years.
Expect a significant rebound next year, so make sure if he slips in drafts you scoop him up.
Alex Gordon: .311-14-58-68-9 in 434 at-bats Finally.
After a couple of years of major disappointment, Gordon has suddenly become the player everyone thought he would be when he was drafted 2nd overall in 2005. Strong all year long, Gordon has killed it over his last nine games producing 18 hits to boost his average up to .311. On the year he's hit lefties (.851 OPS), killed it at home (.970 OPS), and you don't want to face him under the lights (.930 OPS at night). He had one rough month that caused some minor panic – he hit .236 in May – but other than that he has performed at All-Star levels.
What has been the key for him this year? Some luck hasn't hurt at all. Gordon has a 0.49 BB/K mark which is right on his career 0.46 rate. His LD-rate is 21.7 percent, slightly above his 20.4 career mark. His HR/F rate of 10.7 percent is only slightly above his career 9.7 percent mark. That's a whole lot of “normal” from Gordon, that is until you look at the BABIP column - .368. It's pretty tough to predict that anyone can keep that up, so unless Gordon makes some other improvements to his game hitting above .300 this season would appear to be in jeopardy. Still, he is in the hunt for best return on investment of any player in the game this season, so kudos to him for that.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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