The days of Joey Votto being a certified fantasy stud seem long gone. Heck, there was even a year in which he added 16 steals to his incredible overall numbers. Even so, I have seen Votto go at some very cheap prices and for a guy that is currently 31 – still in his prime – I think he is being a bit undervalued in most formats, especially in on base percentage leagues.
Votto is very akin to advanced stats and has stated that he is very comfortable taking a walk if that is what the pitcher has given him. His statistics emphasize that as well, but the statement that he is almost averse to RBI (he netted only 73 in 162 games in 2013) seems unreasonable. His defense to his lack of power and RBI that year were that his knee was still being rehabbed and he did not have the ability to drive the ball as he had in years past. He still hit 24 home runs, but he only drove in 73 while scoring 101 in a full season’s worth of games.
Last season was a wash for Votto, which is why he is being valued so low on draft day. He hit only .255, played only 62 games, had the lowest ISO of his career, and still had a .390 OBP.
Joey Votto is valuable almost beyond words in on base parentage leagues and while his power and RBI may not be at the same level as most top tier first basemen anymore, his ability to get on base and score runs is still very valuable because like it or not there just are not that many players with on base percentages at or near .400 in this pitching environment.
Looking at the projections for this year, Steamer has him at .279/.405/.465 with 19 homers in 134 games. That would be a 20+ homer pace if he is healthy for the full season, and again he was healthy enough to play 162 games just two seasons ago. ZiPS has him only playing 106 games based on his injury history in 2012 and 2014, but still netting a .279/.417/.469 mark. There are certainly arguments to go cheap on first base and if you are looking to go middle infield or outfield in the first few rounds, Votto is an excellent grab a couple rounds later.
The fact of the matter is that Votto’s bat control and strike zone control are unparalleled in the game to this day. He has 13 infield fly balls in his entire career, he has a career .355 BABIP and a walk rate of 15%. That type of productivity, while not the standard grip and rip types you get from first base, still has a lot of actual fantasy value even if it looks different. Guys who get on base score tons of runs, and Votto is not so much of a slap hitter that he will not help in the power department. If your strategy is to wait on first base, Votto is a very attractive target.