Sunday, February 22, 2009

Votto is my Vato.

Consider the stats of two rookie first basemen, both 24-years-old, both playing in friendly hitting environs:

Player A: .297/.368/.506, 24 HR, 84 RsBI, 124 OPS+

Player B: .315/.380/.530, 25 HR, 97 RsBI, 119 OPS+

The question arises: Player B has the better numbers across the board, but Player A has the better OPS +. What's the disconnect? It may help to point out that Player A is Reds first baseman Joey Votto, and Player B is Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Adjust their numbers to neutral ballparks, as OPS + does, and Votto comes out ahead. That bears restating and italicization:

In a neutral hitting environment, Joey Votto was a better player as a rookie than was Todd Helton.

The Reds are counting on Votto to play a key role in their offense in 2009, and he will rack up plenty of RsBI while hitting with Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips on base. Votto's logical place in the Reds batting order is the cleanup spot, and he'll feast on NL Central pitching, where the most fearsome lefty is Ted Lilly.

Baseball Prospectus projects Votto to finish 12th among first basemen in EQA, 9th in slugging and 11th in VORP. Eschew the Justin Morneaus and Adrian Gonzalezes and draft Votto a few rounds later. Better yet, draft both and get a solid first baseman and utility player.

Votto is a solid bet as he enters his second season in Cincy -- draft him in the middle rounds so you can take premium talent at other positions early. Plug Joey Votto in their lineup every day and focus your worries elsewhere.

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