Is Joey Votto’s Second Half a Sign of Things to Come?

Talk about saving the best for last. Reds first baseman Joey Votto batted .382 with a .440 on-base percentage in August and hit nine home runs and posted a .723 slugging percentage in September. Those second half numbers made him a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate but do they make him an elite player for 2009?

Votto out-performed four of the five projection systems on FanGraphs, failing only to exceed the on-base and slugging percentage marks predicted by Bill James. Of course, Votto exceeded the playing time guess from James, so a case could be make he exceeded everyone’s expectations in 2008. He succeeded thanks to a 25.2 percent line drive rate, the fourth-best mark in the majors. He also struck out at a lower rate than most predicted. That’s a nice combination and it helped Votto across the board.

But as good as the season was, Votto was still a lower-echelon first baseman. Yes, he hit nearly .300 but 10 first basemen batted .289 or higher. Sure, Votto hit 24 home runs but that ranked 14th among first basemen. The only fantasy category he was in the upper half among his positional peers was steals, where he totaled seven and finished tied for fourth with two other players.

There’s no doubt that Votto will be a fun guy to root for on your fantasy team, but unless you think his August average (when he had a .422 BABIP) and/or his September home run rate (HR per every 10.44 AB) is his true talent level, one could make a case for at least 10 other first basemen that should be drafted ahead of him. If a fellow owner wants to draft him in the top 10 rounds or bid $20 or more on Votto, wish him luck and focus on another player from this deep fantasy position.

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