One question fantasy baseball fans are asking as we inch closer to MLB‘s Opening Day is whether Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto can return to the form that helped him win the National League MVP award in 2012. The first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds was cruising along as usual a season ago when he injured his knee sliding into third base, an injury that would eventually require arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-July.
Votto returned to action in September after a second surgery, but his power didn’t come back with him. The 29-year-old managed to carry an impressive batting average of .337 in the 374 at-bats he did get, but the power numbers are what makes him such a dominant and well-rounded option in the fantasy baseball world. Lower body injuries are tough to return from mid-season, so the lack of power wasn’t much of a shock.
Heading into the 2013 season, the Reds are set to defend their NL Central title and you can bank on Votto to be the man leading the charge. Cincy finished at 95-67 in 2012 and nine games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals despite playing 51 of its games without Votto in the lineup. In the two seasons leading up to 2012, Joey V averaged over 100 runs scored and driven in, more than 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases per year. His walk totals are unbelievable (201 combined in 2010 and 2011) and he’s hit .300 in four out of five big league campaigns.
You shouldn’t hesitate to snatch up Votto with your first round pick. As far as first baseman go, he’s undoubtedly the NL’s best and I wouldn’t be shocked if he out-produces Albert Pujols in 2013, too. Pujols is 34 and his batting average and home run totals have been on the decline each of the past four seasons. Votto is 29 and in the midst of his prime. He’ll have plenty of time during spring training to shake off any lingering rust from last year’s slow finish as well.
If you find yourself sitting in the back-half of the first round in your fantasy draft this spring and the owners in front of you overlooked Votto due to his sub-par 2012 campaign, it’ll be their loss. Just don’t let him slip any further.