Key Stats: Joey Votto hit 37 home runs last year which was 12 better than any other season in his career. Before you call the fluke police, consider the following. First, he set a new career high for at-bats. Second his fly ball rate was actually decreased by more than 4% last season, so even if his HR:FB declines he can sustain home run totals in the 30s. Third he hit 38 doubles and triples last year compared to 39 the year before. It was not just a doubles to triples transition (although per at-bat he was better in 2010). Fourth, there is no organization that polices flukes.
Skeptics Say: If Votto is taken number seven, you are likely passing on someone like Evan Longoria, Robinson Cano, or David Wright. Players at relatively thin positions. Meanwhile players like Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, or Prince Fielder could be available in a snake draft format coming back around. Let’s not say that first base is deeper than it is because by passing on first basemen in the first two rounds, all the big names should be gone. Another factor to consider is that Votto hit for an OPS that was 0.252 lower against lefties than right-handers.
Peer Comparison: Since the second half of 2008, Votto has been an OPS machine. He had a .959 OPS in the second half of that year, a .981 OPS in 2009, and a 1.024 OPS OPS in 2010. Not only has he been a machine, but like any other technology he’s improving over time. The names mentioned above aren’t ranked in the top ten for a reason. Look at the OPS for Howard, Fielder, and Teixeira the last three years.
Howard 2008: .881 OPS 2009: .931 OPS 2010: .859 OPS
Fielder 2008: .879 OPS 2009: 1.014 OPS 2010: .871 OPS
Teixeira 2008: 1.081 OPS 2009: .948 OPS 2010: .846 OPS
One player is trending up and the rest are all over the map. It’s safe to say all three of these players will have a better OPS this season, but it’s safer to say that Votto will finish with a higher OPS than all of them.
Lineup Outlook: Jay Bruce is a much better hitter than Scott Rolen, but because of respect for veterans and breaking up the two power lefties, Rolen will hit clean up. Rolen hit just 3 home runs in the second half last season and at age 36 who knows if that becomes a trend. Rolen has missed an average of 40 games a season the past four years, so he won’t protect Votto all season. Perhaps Bruce could take the clean up spot and never let go.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #2 First Baseman & #5 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #4 First Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #2 First Baseman & #6 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #2 First Baseman & #7 Overall; RotoChammp: #3 First Baseman & #5 Overall; Charlie Saponara: #11 Overall; Fantasy Newsman: #2 First Baseman
Projection: One thing that can’t be lost is the steals. There won’t be a first baseman that goes more than Votto in 2011.
105 R 34 HR 113 RBI 15 SB .325 AVG .990 OPS
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