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Don't overlook Joey Votto in 2015

By Al Melchior | Data Analyst

When Joey Votto looks into his future, he sees a big bounceback season. (USATSI)
When Joey Votto looks into his future, he sees a big bounceback season. (USATSI)

If you haven't given up on your chances to get production from Joey Votto in 2014, it might be time to make plans for moving forward without him over the season's final month. He could still return from his quadriceps injury, but then again, maybe not, or at least not for long enough that he could make an impact.

But don't let Votto's surprisingly tame season-to-date production get you thinking about not protecting him in a keeper league for next season. He continued to get on base this year, as he sports a .390 OBP over his 62 games. It's Votto's .255 batting average and lack of power that have brought out the skeptics, but it's a worthwhile exercise to look under the hood and see what lies behind the lesser parts of his stat line.

Has Votto struck out too much? His 22 percent strikeout-per-at-bat ratio is right in line with his rates from previous seasons. Has he lost his knack for hitting line drives? A 35 percent liner rate strongly suggests otherwise. Is soft contact to blame? Votto is hitting .738 on those line drives, and though he's not a big-time flyball hitter, he sent the average fly 309 feet, trailing only Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Abreu and George Springer on that leaderboard (courtesy of BaseballHeatMaps.com). He has also continued to avoid popups, though a 2.4 percent rate -- impressive for mere mortals -- represents a slight uptick for him.

It's not popups that have put a damper on Votto's season, but rather a 10.0 percent home run-to-flyball ratio, an .083 batting average on grounders and an .028 flyball BABIP. Those numbers all smack of bad luck gone horribly awry, given how hard he has been hitting the ball. He may not hit enough flyballs to be a 30-plus home run threat next season, but there is no reason to fear a season any worse than his 2013 campaign, and there is a good chance next season that Votto can improve on last year's 73 RBI. Just a year ago, Votto was one of the six most-productive first basemen in Fantasy, and he shouldn't be considered anything less than that for 2015.

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