Billy Butler spent the past two seasons as the Royals’ primary first baseman, starting 143 games there in 2009 and another 126 games there in 2010, but this year manager Ned Yost has opted to go with Kila Ka’aihue at first base while using Butler at designated hitter.
Butler is still holding out hope that his glove won’t merely collect cobwebs for the rest of his career, telling Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star “there’s no doubt” he’d prefer to be playing first base “but I’m not going to make an issue out of not playing over there.”
Asked if he understands Butler’s desire to play first base, manager Ned Yost replied:
Sure I do, but you know what, I’d like to be an astronaut … and for some reason, they just won’t let me. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes, people find their niche.
Ka’aihue is far from a sure thing to be in the Royals’ long-term plans, but with various big bats coming up through their stocked farm system odds are Butler will always be the most obvious DH choice. There have certainly been plenty of worse-fielding regulars at first base over the years, but Butler is never going to be anything but below average there and the time at DH isn’t hurting his production at the plate, as he’s hitting .368 with a 1.037 OPS through 16 games.
He has a much better chance of being an everyday first baseman again than Yost does of being an astronaut, but neither is an especially great idea.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.