by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There was a lot of hope surrounding Billy Burns prior to the 2016 season, as fantasy owners searched for stolen base upside. However he was never able to put things together, ultimately being traded from Oakland to Kansas City and posting an underwhelming stat line:
311 At Bats
.235 Batting Average (73 Hits)
0 Home Runs
17 Stolen Bases
.271 On Base Percentage
.296 Slugging Percentage
.264 Batting Average on Balls in Play
It would be easy to write him off and ignore him. One thing we’ve learned from the Royals, though, is that they aren’t afraid to utilize their fourth/fifth outfielders for pinch running/defensive duties. Look no further than Jarrod Dyson, with 26+ SB for five straight seasons despite never having more than 337 PA, as Exhibit A. The question is, with Dyson now in Seattle can Burns step in and fill the vacated role?
Maybe Burns doesn’t have the same pure speed as Dyson, but he’s stolen 54 bases in a season on two separate occasions. Even last season he managed to swipe 17 bases in limited playing time, and there’s reason to think that there’s more upside with an increase in his batting average.
While you could argue that it isn’t a given, considering a 12.2% Hard% (13.1% in his MLB career), with his speed and ability to make consistent contact (13.2% MLB career strikeout rate) it should be close to a certainty. He does a good job of putting the ball on the ground (53.2% in ’16) and trying to utilize his speed, so his .264 BABIP is going to rise. A career .288 hitter in the minors, you’d think he should be able to pull in a .270 average.
The switch hitter did struggle against right-handed pitchers, which is a concern:
While he was also better against southpaws in ’15 (.315), he held his own against righties (.285). It was more a luck based issue in 2016 (BABIP of .344 vs. .241) and nothing more.
While we aren’t about to say that Burns is going to rack up the stolen bases quite like Dyson, it’s easy to envision him filling a similar role and producing a solid average with 20-25 SB (with the potential to reach 30). Considering the state of speed around the game, those aren’t numbers that anyone should overlook.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
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