Joey Votto: Is Reds First Baseman Still Elite?

Jun 29, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) looks on during the ninth inning of the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. The Cincinnati Reds defeated the San Francisco Giants 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Not many players saw a bigger decline in 2014 than the former NL MVP.  Despite the fact that Joey Votto’s campaign was mostly marred by injuries, there are a lot more red marks than just lengthy stays on the disabled list.

When it comes to fantasy baseball, I almost always target power in my hitters.  Votto once posted an incredible 37 long balls in his 2010 MVP season, but he always seemed like more of a 20-25 home run guy in my mind.  Combined with his slash line that tended to be among the best, if not the best, in baseball, Votto used to be worth a very high draft pick.

In 2014, Joey Votto only managed to hit six home runs in 272 plate appearances.  Beyond that, Votto had an OBP of .390, which is fantastic compared to almost any other player in baseball, but Votto is no ordinary hitter.  This injury-plagued season represented the first time Joey Votto had a sub .400 OBP since 2008.

With less home runs and a lower OBP, Votto’s slugging struggled as well.  His .409 SLG is .124 below his career average and .082 below his prior career worst.  This season was certainly the worst of Joey Votto’s career, but it was also the only time he played under 111 games in a season.

This precipitous decline can mean one of two things.  Joey Votto’s skills have rapidly eroded at age 31 or that injuries dramatically affected his performance and he could rebound decently in 2015.  Hopefully, the latter situation is true, but I am not entirely positive on his outlook.

There are just too many red flags between the free fall in production, the reoccurring injuries with his quads, and his age for me to use a higher pick on.  I would rather spend my draft pick on a safer alternative.

I will personally be avoiding Joey Votto next year in my drafts because I feel the name value will exceed the production.  However, I hope I am wrong because Votto has arguably the best hit tool in all of baseball and I hope he can continue to showcase it.

Important side note: Joey Votto is very close to returning to the field, and it is possible that he plays in one of the last few games of the season.  However, he is not worth adding for the last few days.  He will be rusty and who knows if they even activate him with the Reds being well out of contention.

Of course, Joey Votto should continue to be owned in keeper leagues.

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