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Are Owners Overvaluing Joey Votto?

I've been reviewing the latest mocks on MDC and one player stands out as being overvalued or perhaps mis-valued. I know it's a little early to start analyzing mock drafts, and they do need to be taken with a grain of salt, as some people draft their keepers or their league's available players regardless of who is on the board, but I can't figure out why Joey Votto is currently going 10th overall. A year ago this draft position was justified, he displayed mammoth power and added the element of speed, something of a rarity for those manning first base. But that was a year ago, and Votto's fantasy contributions were far more moderate in 2011.

Votto is currently the 4th first baseman off the board and I'm baffled by the strategy of selecting another from this group when there are players who offer like production at more scarce positions. The two players currently ranking 11th and 12th respectively are Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria. Both are the clear cut, top performers at their position and are easily capable of replicating Votto's numbers. I'd bet on both of them to outproduce Votto this year.

Cano plays in a park taylor-made to his swing, offers the same combination of power and speed, and plays in a line up that offers far greater run producing opportunities. He managed to drive in 118 runs this past season, a very impressive feat considering he batted mostly out of the five-hole and did so with lesser opportunity than normal. The early reports state he will be batting 3rd next season, the spot in the order he should've been batting all along, and barring any freak injury he should set a career best in plate appearances.

As for Longoria, his .244 average looks pretty ugly but there is no real need for concern. He suffered an oblique injury early in the year and never looked fully comfortable at the dish. He also was rather unlucky, suffering from a .239 babip. Longoria should improve based on health alone, but if his second half numbers are any indication he's primed for a big season. And a full season of Desmond Jennings atop the order doesn't hurt either.

Fantasy baseball is about the sum, and I'm sure one would argue that in a standard league they could take Votto 10th and grab Dustin Pedroia when the draft snakes. This may seem like a smart plan of action, but it lacks vision. I'd rather take Cano or Longo with the 10th then grab Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez the next time around maximizing infield value.

Moving down the MDC charts I see a player who offers similar production to Votto and for some reason, I'm speculating age, goes under appreciated, the 45th player off the board on average, Paul Konerko. Konerko will give you like numbers in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. While he may not steal more than one or two bases the six or seven separating him and Votto can easily be made up elsewhere. The runs were down for Konerko in 2011, a stat I attribute to a very underwhelming supporting cast. Typically he should score around 85 runs, and if the difference between Votto and him is essentially 15 or so runs and a handful of stolen bases, I'm taking the latter 35 spots later.

Amongst second baseman, third baseman, and shortstops there is a considerable drop off in value from the top of the draft to the point where Konerko is being selected. Dan Uggla is going 54th, Alex Rodriguez is 60th, and you have to go all the way down to 81 to find Asdrubal Cabrera. Konerko comes with far less concern than those three, which reinforces my belief that the sum of the top infielders and Konerko offers greater probability than the sum of Votto and whatever else you use to fill out these positions.

I've spoken to quite a few owners of Joey Votto who believe the player is closer to his 2010 season than the one that just passed. Obviously I feel the complete opposite and it's here that I turn to the professionals to reaffirm my suspicions. The Bill James projections have Votto producing a slash line of .310/31/98/105/9. Compare that with Dan Szymborski's projections, .294/30/93/102/11, and it's clear that the experts don't predict a duplicate of his MVP winning season. While projections are merely that and are in no way concrete, they should be taken into consideration. I place a great deal of faith in the expected numbers and use them as a guide when filling out tiers and pre-draft sheets.

It should be noted that I think Votto is an excellent player and a very worthy pick in fantasy, but only under the right circumstance. I even question whether or not he should be the 4th selected first baseman but that more or less is dependant upon where Prince Fielder signs. To me, Votto is the one player you should not worry about missing out on, if you hold the number 10 pick and the owner in front of you takes Votto, he just did you a favor, buy him a beer if it's an in-person draft.