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Updating the Top 100: The Elite

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Guess who?

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

JOEY VOTTO - 11

Played as Red

Primary Position

Career Rank

Peak Rank

Prime Rank

2007-2015

1B

11

8

6

Percent Breakdown of Value

Best Season

Best player on Reds

Hit

Field

Pitch

2015

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015

95%

5%

0%

Awards/Honors as a Red

Leading the League

On the Reds Leaderboard

Most Valuable Player - 2010

Hank Aaron Award - 2010

All Star - 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Gold Glove - 2011

OPS+ - 2010

OPS - 2010

On Base Percentage - 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Slugging Percentage - 2010

Doubles - 2011

Walks - 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015

- 1st in career OPS+
- 1st in career on base percentage
- 2nd in career slugging pct
- 7th in career batting average
- 11th in career HR

It seemed to go down with little fanfare.  Joey Votto, who had missed significant chunks of two out of the prior three seasons with leg injuries, put together a season that was better than his breakthrough MVP season of 2010.  His best season, then, has come at age 31, a feat that is not strictly unheard of but one that was a bit...surprising given how pedestrian his 2014 season looked.

Here's what we know:

1)      Votto's power came back.  2010 will likely always be a career anomaly for Votto, in that an astounding 16.3% of every fly ball he hit left the yard, but Votto did post the second highest HR/FB rate of his career in 2015 (12.8%).  This, I presume, bodes well for the future.

2)      Votto receives even more of his value than ever from his ability to take a walk.  His walk rate cracked 20% for the first time in his career and, in a related note, he saw fewer strikes from opposing pitchers than ever before.  One imagines that these trends may be related to Votto being a stand-out player on a crappy team, but who knows?  Either way, I'm looking forward to Votto continuing this path en route to a .500 OBP, Barry Bonds style, while the professional onlookers throw shade his way for taking so many walks instead of being a leader.  Keep doing you, Vottomatic.

To that last point, I expect some unwanted attention to come Votto's way this year, as his massive contract extension really kicks in as the team continues to be unwatchable.  I also expect that he'll handle it in a professional and intelligent manner, grinding out one excellent at-bat after another.

Here's a question I didn't expect to be asking this time last year: Does Joey Votto have a chance at being elected to the Hall of Fame in 15 years or so?

The point at which it appears that a player is more likely than not to be elected is upon reaching 60 bWAR.  The only eligible first basemen who have at least 60 bWAR and are not in are: Keith Hernandez (too much value in his defense, perhaps?), Mark McGwire (PED stain), Rafael Palmeiro (same), and Jeff Bagwell (who will probably get in next year).  Votto currently has 43 bWAR, with eight more seasons left on his current contract.  With Votto putting up over 7 bWAR in 2015, one can envision a fairly rapid assault on the potentially significant 60 bWAR threshold.  Assuming that his health and skill do not desert him, this will be an interesting storyline to monitor and project in the coming years.

Making this a bit more Reds-centric, and making the assumption that Joey Votto will indeed play out the remainder of his contract in Cincinnati, we can project out just how far up the list Votto can climb.  If he plays a full season in 2016, he's a near-lock to reach the #8 slot.  Thereafter, progress will slow considerably, as the ranges between each player tend to be wider.  However, assuming reasonable decline through his career, Votto should be considered a strong favorite to reach #3 on the all-time list, surpassing all but Rose and Bench.

And that's where I begin to get angry.  Let's put it like this: Joey Votto has been on the Reds for parts of nine seasons, including his call-up year of 2007.  He came to bat just 89 times that year, so for intents and purposes, we'll say that he's been a Red for 8 years.  According to this writer's tally, he's already the 11th best player to ever wear the uniform.  Most of the players ahead of him were with the franchise for at least a decade, so he's doing pretty dang good.  Now consider that in three of those eight seasons, Votto missed considerable time due to depression, knee surgery, or a screwed up quad.

I'm a Midwesterner by birth and heritage so I don't consider myself obliged of many things.  I count the one Reds championship of my sentient lifetime as a blessing and I don't feel like I'm owed another one.  It would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath.  I don't expect that top Reds prospects will reach their ceiling, as a general rule.  But Votto...oh, boy.  Here emerges the best hitter in a Reds uniform any of us have ever seen.  He's ours and he's legimitate and he'd have had a reasonable chance to end up as the greatest player in team history, were it not for the reality that claimed big chunks of three seasons so far.  And if I'm being completely honest, I feel a bit cheated by that.

In just over 1,100 games as a Red, Joey Votto has a slash line of 311/423/534 (156 OPS+).  He has 1,226 hits and 754 walks to go with his 276 doubles and 192 homers.  He ticks up from #13 to #11 on the all-time list, while remaining steady as the 2nd best first baseman in team history.

Top 15 1st Basemen in Reds history

1

Tony Perez

2

Joey Votto

3

Ted Kluszewski

4

Frank McCormick

5

Dan Driessen

6

Jack Beckley

7

Sean Casey

8

Lee May

9

Jake Daubert

10

Dick Hoblitzel

11

Hal Morris

12

Rube Bressler

13

Gordy Coleman

14

Deron Johnson

15

Hal Chase