A popular segment on the Dear Mr. Fantasy Baseball Podcast is the “Who’d you rather?” feature, where two players are compared and contrasted, ultimately to determine the one guy that you’d want on your fantasy baseball roster.
This post marks the first written edition of “Who’d you rather?” and we’ll be beginning by choosing between two first basemen: Cincinnati’s Joey Votto and LA’s Adrian Gonzalez. Which guy would you rather have on your fantasy baseball team?
My auction money is on Votto. I know I should’ve teased you and strung you along, but I we got enough of that in high school. Am I right fellas? I just went ahead and played my baseball card. But let’s still talk this out.
The case for Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez’s fantasy baseball stock has took a dive in part from unrealistic expectations and inconsistent power numbers. Before leaving San Diego to go to the Red Sox Gonzalez had several stellar seasons, one in which he hit 40 home runs. This set expectations sky high for his move to Fenway. I read some fantasy baseball bloggers and heard talk from some in my fantasy baseball leagues who were certain that he’d launch a minimum of 50 home runs over the Green Monster!
What happened in that 2011 season was surprising however. A late season surge did get his home run total up to 27 and that was accompanied by a .338 batting average, but fantasy owners were expecting 35+ home runs to go along with an AVG around .280. Weird.
There are some curious numbers here. After a peak of 40 home runs in 2009, those numbers have taken a dive. A Gone’s strikeout percentage has held amazingly stable at just over 16%, but his walk rate has been anywhere from 17.5% to a low of 6.1%. Strange.
While his line drive percentage has been very predictable at just over 20%, his home runs per fly ball has been erratic as has his home runs per at bats.
I don’t know what to make of this, but it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence. What will his 2013 fantasy baseball numbers look like? Who knows, but the lack of certainly doesn’t make him a Tier 1 first baseman. While I certainly don’t think A Gone should have been as maligned as he has been the last two seasons, it doesn’t mean that I’d target him over Votto.
The case for Joey Votto
I do think, however, that we need to look at similar advanced batting statistics for Joey Votto so that he doesn’t suffer from the same unrealistic expectations as Adrian Gonzalez.
After the 2010 season when Votto launched 37 home runs, there was an irrational narrative that his home run total would just climb from there, taking him safely over the 40 home run plateau. His home run per fly ball that season was well above his career, and in 2011 you saw his numbers regress back to his career mean.
Career mean? What does that mean? Simply put, Joey Votto’s home run totals can be expected to be in the high 20’s and to draft him for more than that for your fantasy baseball team will leave you disappointed. Looking above to his line drive percentage you can see that Votto is a solid line drive hitter. This is excellent in that many of his batted balls will fall for hits, keeping his batting average very high. What it also means is that unless they drop the height of the outfield fences down to 18 inches, then those line drives won’t leave the yard. Remember, classic power hitters hit fly balls, not line drives.
Votto will help your fantasy baseball team in another way. His walk percentage has climbed steadily, to a high of 19.8%. With almost a fifth of his plate appearances ending in a walk you can bet that Votto will once again lead the league in on base percentage. Those of you who play in OBP leagues should gobble him up in the first 5 picks because the next closest player in terms of OBP won’t even be in Votto’s ballpark, to pardon the pun.
Votto is a complete hitter. If you’d ask me who I’d rather have on my fantasy baseball team, it’s a no brainer, assuming the health of Votto’s knee. Votto’s high average, strong counting stats and high 20’s power makes him a first round pick in my draft, while A Gone’s perplexing number swings drop him down to a potentially 3rd Round pick.