by Ray Kuhn
I get it, Joey Votto gets on base. In fact, Votto gets on base at a very high level. That skill has a clear value, even more so for those leagues that count On Base Percentage instead of Batting Average (though that’s not the case in the majority of leagues).
He is a career .313 hitter so we shouldn’t take his plate skills lightly, but I need more from someone I am selecting towards the end of the second round in 15 team leagues (current ADP is 28.57, with a range from 20 to 41) as the sixth first baseman to come off the board (which I don’t necessarily disagree with). Based on his ADP 41st appears to be the outlier, but that is where I would be comfortable selecting him.
We are talking about just one round, but my first two selections need to be studs. There aren’t many five category contributors on offense, but in the first two rounds I’m looking for impact pieces. Votto is very good player, but I believe we have seen his ceiling and there isn’t room for all that much value. Plus first base is a relatively deep position and this year is no different, considering the resurgence we have seen in the power department across baseball.
The main question we have to ask is if Votto will maintain his level of production from the second half of last season?
He struggled, to say the least, in the first two months of last season as he hit .229 in April followed by a .200 mark in May. For owners that held onto him for the season, he more than made up for it as he then hit .378 for the remainder of the season.
Expecting him to finish with a batting average below .300 would be foolish, as he has eclipsed that mark in four of his last five seasons with a batting average consistently greater than his expected batting average by at least 26 points. What I wouldn’t be banking on is the 86% contact rate he had in the second half of last season, when his previous high over the past four seasons was 78%.
The line drives are still consistently there, around 27%, and his hard contact rate is well above average, but we did see some potential power concerns in the second half. His Power Index (per Baseball HQ) was 134, and Votto’s expected power checked in at 111. Also, for the second straight season, 22% of Votto’s fly balls turned into runs, and that is also something I would expect to see some regression in.
It is not a secret the Reds are rebuilding and the talent surrounding Votto is at a minimum. That will make it difficult for him to repeat the 97 RBI, which was the highest over his past campaigns.
Votto is not someone I’m ignoring this draft season, I’m just going to be a little more conservative when drafting him. Maybe some of it is a personal bias against overpaying for batting average, but I can’t see him repeating his .326 average. Couple that with a slight regression to his home run and RBI totals and maybe we are looking at a .305 hitting first baseman with 25 home runs and 85 RBI?
There certainly is value to that when building a team, but I’m looking for more in the power categories, along with some help in the stolen base department, with that early of a draft pick.
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