2018 Royals Season Preview – Drew Butera

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 20: Drew Butera
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 20: Drew Butera /
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Batting .198 in 2015 after being acquired by the Royals, Drew Butera struggled in his first half-season with the team. The following campaign, Butera had his best year to date and was one of the better reserve catchers in the game. Despite coming back down to Earth last season, everyone has grown to love the hair-flipping 34-year-old backup catcher. 

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Danny Duffy, I highly recommend it. Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. We’ve now finished previews for the bullpen and starting rotation – we’re headed to fielders! Starting behind the plate, a player who doesn’t see action every day but makes the most of the time he does get is Drew Butera. Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in 2015, the Royals brought in Butera to help relieve Salvador Pérez. Butera has played in 175 games over his past two-and-a-half seasons with the club. Batting as high as .285 and as low as .198 in his time with the Royals, Butera has brought the club some solid defense and plenty of hair-flipping memories. How will he fare in 2018?

What did he offer last season?

Drew Butera played in 75 games last season, racking up 177 plate appearances. Butera hit three home runs and had 14 RBIs on the year. His batting average took a tumble, sitting at .227 after a .285 year in 2016, but he was still a valuable piece of the team and provided Salvador Pérez with some much-needed rest. Fangraphs had Butera graded at 2.8 defensive WAR and 0.2 overall WAR, making him a positively-valued player for the second consecutive year in Kansas City. Batting .222 in the first half of the season and .231 in the second half, there was no real difference in Butera’s play by half. Batting .074 in the final month of the season isn’t a major cause for concern. For the sake of baseball, we’ll chalk it up to a14-game slump.

What can we expect in 2018?

The Steamer projections for Butera’s season seemed significantly low, so I’m adding Baseball Reference‘s projections to the mix as well. The bad news is: their projections were significantly higher than expected.

  • 70 plate appearances (Fangraphs) or 302 plate appearances (Baseball Reference)
  • .230 batting average (Fangraphs) or .242 batting average (Baseball Reference)
  • 2 HR (Fangraphs) or 8 HR (Baseball Reference)
  • 7 RBI (Fangraphs) or 29 RBI (Baseball Reference)

If you take the average of those projections, you’ll get 186 PA, a .236 BA, 5 HR and 18 RBI from Butera in 2018. When considering last year’s numbers of 177 PA, .227 BA, 3 HR and 14 RBI, the aforementioned isn’t unreasonable. I’m going to take slightly over 186 PA in 2018, as I’m hoping the team gives Pérez a bit more rest in the second half of the season. I’m taking the under on a .236 BA, 5 HR and 18 RBI. There likely won’t be as many runners on base this season for Butera to drive in, so an increase in RBI isn’t likely. Also consider the fact that players tend to decline in performance at the age of 34, not the opposite. Expect Butera to do a bit better than his career averages, but don’t hold your breath for another late-career resurgence.

The verdict 

Drew Butera is a player who’s great to have in the clubhouse and also just so happens to be a pretty solid backup catcher. 2016 was an aberration, though. He will never bat .285 again and contribute great defense. Entering the final year of his contract, look for a little extra effort from Butera. Other than that, the Royals and their fans should see more of the same from the veteran catcher. Here’s to a few more random home runs and fun moments from Butera in 2018.

Meanwhile, for the sake of this article, I’ve included a complimentary hair flip:

What do you think, Royals fans? Will Drew Butera get more playing time this year? Will some internal options take time away from him? Is his age going to show? Let us know what you have to say!

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