With the first base position thinner than usual in 2013, it’s more important than ever to grab a top flight first baseman early in your fantasy baseball draft. It’s a slippery slope beyond the top seven first basemen, which is why baseball’s top two–Albert Pujols and Joey Votto–are going in the first round of most drafts and for good reason.
Reaching for Pujols or Votto is far from a bad idea in the 2013—it’s a good one, actually—but that brings up a simple question: who’s better?
The prototypical traits of a first baseman revolve around home runs, hits and RBI, so let’s look at those.
Pujols holds the edge when it comes to home runs, hitting 109 long balls in the last few years compared to only 80 from Votto. However, while 29 may seem like a big margin, Votto has played significantly fewer games than Pujols. When it comes to slugging percentage, the Cincinnati Reds superstar takes the cake, having bested Pujols in two of the last three years by wide margins. Pujols is Pujols, though, and not many players in baseball have his kind of power. He has the advantage here, but not by much.
This one goes to Votto and all it takes is a look at 2012 to know why. Before being struck with a knee injury that cost him a good amount of last season, he hit a superb .337 while Pujols struggled down in LA with a career-low .285 clip. That’s a big difference made only more prevalent by the fact that Votto’s on-base-percentage, a category he often leads the league in, was more than 130 points higher than Pujols. Both are great pure hitters, but the advantage goes to Votto here and it might not be close anymore.
The two were nearly identical in this category between 2010 and 2011. Only one RBI separated them over that span with Pujols leading the way with 217 to Votto’s 216. However, heading into 2013 not many teams in baseball have a lineup as feared as the Los Angeles Angels. With Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton around him, Pujols could be in for an explosive comeback from last year’s struggle, and while Votto may be an RBI machine himself, it’s hard to see the Reds slugger taking Pujols in RBI this year.
Overall, Pujols takes the lead in homers and RBI, but Votto dominates when it comes to average and hits. Both are among the best pure hitters in the game, but Pujols relies more on the long ball while Votto loves to hit those doubles. That said, these two are just about as comparable on a stat sheet as any two players in the game, but there is a wild card that every fantasy owner should have in mind: Votto’s knee.
While he has had plenty of time to rest it, and he’ll play like it’s at full health, no one knows how that knee will perform this season. He could show no ill effects, or it could haunt him all year. Only time will tell and for that reason—and probably that reason alone—Pujols wins this battle in 2013.
Reach for both of them, but just reach a little farther for #5.
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