The resurgence of Joey Votto
Dave Holcomb - MLB Fantasy Analysis|
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's hard to believe a man with a career batting line of .310/.417/.533 and one MVP award to his name would come into the 2015 season under the radar.
But that is exactly what happened to Reds' first baseman Joey Votto.
According to Fantasy Pros, he was the consensus 17th ranked first baseman in standard leagues. Votto wasn't even considered the best fantasy first baseman on his team as Todd Frazier, who has first base eligibility in some leagues, was the 11th best fantasy first baseman this preseason.
But after hitting a career-low .255 with just six home runs and 23 RBI in 220 at-bats last season, the ranking seemed legitimate.
Now, owners should remember we are still in the early going of the 2015 baseball season, but boy is Votto making everyone who doubted him look very silly.
Through 11 games, Votto is hitting .350 with four home runs, seven runs and 10 RBI.
Owners can contribute Votto's resurgence in 2015 to two things. For one, he is healthy unlike last season.
The Reds first baseman missed 100 games last year due to a distal quad strain, which more than likely led to the very poor numbers when he did play in 2014.
The other key factor in Votto's return to glory is his plate discipline.
The 31-year-old has always been known as a very patient hitter. According to Fan Graphs, Votto has swung at 24.1 percent of the pitches he has seen outside the strike zone in his nine-year career.
The league average of pitches swung at outside the strike zone since 2010 is about 30 percent.
This season, though, Votto has taken his plate discipline to a whole new extreme as he has swung at just 14.8 percent of pitches he has seen outside the strike zone. That's about half of the league average, 30.5 percent, through the first two weeks of the year.
The plate discipline has led to 10 walks in the first 11 games and has helped Votto post a .480 on-base percentage, which is currently second in the National League behind only fellow first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
If this trend continues, this will make one of Votto's biggest strengths, on- base percentage, an even better strength. From 2010-13, he led the NL in on- base percentage every season and could very well repeat the feat again as long as he avoids major injury.
It is also important to note that this higher emphasis on plate discipline for Votto has coincided with his move to hitting second in the batting order. Since his MVP season in 2010, Votto has typically hit third, but this season, Reds manager Bryan Price has him batting second.
Many experts speculated that the change in batting order was going to hurt Votto's fantasy value. Yes, it is possible that hitting higher in the order is going to decrease Votto's RBI totals, but if owners take a closer look at his career stats, Votto has never been a great RBI-guy anyway.
He has only reached the 100-RBI mark twice in his career. The first baseman had just 56 and 73 RBI in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Furthermore, Votto hasn't been a big power threat recently either. He has not hit 25 home runs in a season since 2011.
This season, however, could be different with Votto in the No. 2 spot of the lineup and better plate discipline.
Frazier has become an All-Star third baseman, and he hits behind Votto. Catcher Devin Mesoraco, who is currently sidelined but not on the disabled list, will hit fourth when healthy and displayed tremendous power, smashing 25 home runs last season.
Pitchers are not going to want to pitch to Frazier and/or Mesoraco, so because Votto is hitting in front of them, they will be forced to more often than not, throw Votto strikes.
And when they don't, Votto isn't going to swing.
Again, April is early to get too high or too low about anything baseball related, but the trends show Votto will be among the leaders in walks and on- base percentage while also having the chance to hit 25 bombs.
At the very least, he is due to outplay his ridiculously-low 17th ranked first baseman preseason rating.