Sunday, July 18, 2010

Keeper debate: Adam Jones vs. Billy Butler

My old pal Sean-Dogg recently hit me up for some fantasy advice, as he's been known to do over the years. He's in a pretty serious keeper league and he's faced with a big conundrum: He's got to give up Alex Rodriguez at the end of the year, so he's trying to entertain trade offers while his team is basically out of contention this season.

His decision right now essential comes down to choosing between Orioles OF Adam Jones and some spare parts, or a package that includes Royals 1B Billy Butler. Neither of those guys is going to replace the overall production of an A-Rod anytime soon, but they're both quality keeper prospects who are relatively young (Jones turns 25 in a few weeks; Butler just turned 24 in April) and have room to grow. So who's a better keeper pick?

To start, we should note that the skill sets are quite different. Butler's not known for being fleet of foot (1 career SB in 4 seasons); Jones has swiped 10 bags in each of the past two years (though he has just 3 so far in 2010). Butler's a career .297 hitter with an average currently hovering at .318; Jones seems to have topped out at around .270. Butler's been a much more patient hitter, as evidenced by his 41/37 K/BB ratio this year; Jones has only walked 10 times in 2010 compared to 79 strikeouts. Both have shown 20-homer power (Butler had 21 last year, Jones 19).

This is a pretty tough call. As I told the Dogg, I want to give Butler the edge because he's younger than Jones and yet he's already proven more at the major league level. The ability to hit .300 for a season is a impressive skill, and last year's .301/21/93 stat line speaks volumes about Butler's talents. However, while the average is for real, I wonder if he can improve on those power numbers and jump up to the class of the 30- and 40-homer first basemen that dominate a deep position.

Jones' potential as a five-category contributor are intriguing, but they're still just that, potential. Until I see better results and an improved approach at the plate and more aggression on the basepaths, I have to declare Butler the better keeper prospect by a hair.

Hope that helps, buddy.

Photos by The Associated Press