Joey Votto has been one of the Reds brighter spots since they made him a second round selection in the 2002 draft. He progressed steadily through the minor league system and made his major league debut late in 2007.
Votto had a very solid rookie season (.373 wOBA) in 2008 and built upon that strongly in 2009. Despite missing a few weeks in June due to a bout with depression and anxiety attacks over the sudden loss of his father, Votto, had an extremely encouraging 2009 season. In 131 games and 469 at-bats Votto hit .322/.414/.567 with 25 home runs. He had the third highest wOBA (.418) in the majors trailing only Albert Pujols (.449) and Prince Fielder (.420).
Votto’s .373 BABIP in 2009 stands out like a sore thumb and when we refer to the expected BABIP calculator from The Hardball Times Votto’s expected BABIP is .317 based on his batted ball profile. This number would severely damage Votto’s triple slash. The calculator would have spit out this unimpressive line assuming that all hits subtracted from Votto’s line were generously singles:
Color me unimpressed. I’m just not buying this. While we should expect some natural regression from Votto’s 2009 BABIP going forward I think the calculator is being too harsh here. It should also be noted that Votto has consistently strung together high BABIPs. Here are his BABIPs dating back to his 2006 season in Double-A:
2009: .373 (MLB)
2008: .330 (MLB)
2007: .354 (MLB-84 ABs) and .341 (AAA)
2006: .371 (AA)
Votto has consistently hit the ball hard and I think his 21.7% line drive percentage (a component that the calculator considers) in 2009 is hurting his expected BABIP score from the calculator. In 2008 his line drive percentage was 25.2% and it was 26.1% in 84 big league at-bats in 2007. While the 2009 mark suggests that he hit fewer line drives I believe that natural scorers bias could also be coming into play here especially considering his high 2009 BABIP and very low 2009 line drive rate compared to his 2008 and 2007 (small sample size) rates.
Votto has flown under the radar and isn’t quite a household name because he plays on a bad team and is overshadowed by four big name first basemen in his division in Pujols, Fielder, Derek Lee, and Lance Berkman. I wouldn’t peg Votto to hit around .320 again with some normal and expected BABIP regression but he’s going to be a good power source and provide a nice batting average around or slightly above .300. The Bill James (.311/.397/.550) and Fans (.311/.398/.535) projections look quite fair for Votto and much more accurate than the BABIP calculator’s glum forecast.
Bill James is projecting a .344 BABIP in 2010 and you, The Fans, have his projected BABIP at .352. That sounds about right to be but I’d expect a home run total north of 30 for Votto in 2010 since he has no significant injury history and appears to be over his depression and anxiety issues. Expect more long balls if he appears in 150+ games especially in the homer friendly ballpark in Cincinnati.
Votto deserves more recognition than he’s been granted and he may be a candidate that could slide to you in rounds 6-8 of your fantasy drafts. You would be getting fantastic value with him there and don’t be afraid to pop him a little earlier if need be. It’s all systems go for Votto.