First things first: read The Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans' look back at Joey Votto’s professional career to date, complete with interviews of the former coaches and executives that helped him become a Cincinnati Red in the first place. If you’ve followed Votto at all on the field, you obviously know he’s one of the most talented and successful offensive forces the game has seen in this generation - perhaps in many generations. If you’ve followed Votto at all off the field, you’re aware that he has always gone about things in his own, very dedicated way. Rosecrans runs the gamut through all points of his career, and it’s a truly fascinating read to get you ready for watching Votto this upcoming season.
If you'd rather look forward to what Votto has in store for 2017 rather than trace the history of his development, well, Votto's not one to dwell on his past successes too much, either. As MLB.com's Mark Sheldon notes, the way he's poised to improve upon his already monumental 2015-2016 stretch has him firmly on the radar for a 2017 NL MVP Award, should that hard work pay off in the right ways. Sheldon mentions Votto's slow starts to each of the last two seasons - seasons where he still combined to hit an absurd .320/.447/.546 in 316 games played - and declining defense as the only things that have truly held him back, and Votto himself speaks of how those two aspects of his game have garnered the most attention from his this offseason.
Sheldon isn't the only one who has taken notice of Votto's recent seasons and offseason dedication. In fact, USA Today writer Steve Gardner went as far as to pick Votto to win the NL MVP Award in 2017 despite freely acknowledging that the Cincinnati Reds aren't going to do a lot of winning behind him to keep him in the daily news team-wise.
In other news, the Reds will tangle with the best of their minor league brethren in an exhibition game in Louisville's Slugger Field on Friday night, and it appears there will be an Adam Duvall bobblehead waiting for those first 5,000 fans in attendance. It'll be a Futures Team featuring the best and brightest prospects in the Cincinnati system, and after playing in Louisville on Friday night they'll head to Dayton, OH for a game in the Dragons' Fifth Third Field for a similar contest on Saturday afternoon.
The complete Futures Team roster can be found here, courtesy of friend-of-the-site and Bats' PR Director Ryan Ritchey. According to The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan, Tyler Mahle will get the start for the Futures Team on Friday, with fireballin' Luis Castillo getting the nod for them on Saturday. Rookie Davis will start for the big league Reds on Friday night, with Amir Garrett starting for them in Dayton on Saturday.
After the last two injury-riddled seasons and the announcement that he won't be part of the Opening Day roster with the Reds this year, it's easy to forget about Devin Mesoraco entirely. He's still grinding his way back to game shape, however, and had a pair of hits (including a double) in a minor league game yesterday, according to Better Off Red's Jamie Ramsey.
Remember when utility man Omar Infante was picked for the 2010 NL All Star squad over that year's eventual MVP, Joey Votto? Infante just got cut by the Detroit Tigers, which led me to notice this little tidbit about those two players. (And I was wrong in my initial #taek, since it was Charlie Manuel doing the picking that year, not Tony La Russa. La Russa was behind the screw-job that left Johnny Cueto off the 2012 NL squad.)
Finally, FanGraphs' Dave Cameron took a look at the recent history of contract extensions signed by breakout, pre-arb players around the league, and it's a pretty resourceful read. Given where the Reds are in the "life cycle" consistently referred to by GM Dick Williams, any sort of climb up the NL Central charts in the coming two years will undoubtedly ride on the backs of breakouts from some of Cincinnati's current crop of young, pre-arb players. It could be Jose Peraza, it could be Eugenio Suarez, or it could be sustained health from Anthony DeSclafani, but for the rebuild to truly take off it's going to take a lot more than just the incredible Joey Votto. Should any of those players emerge the way, say, Jose Ramirez just did - Ramirez being the genesis of Cameron's piece since he recently got a contract extension - this is exactly the kind of conversation that will emanate from the Cincinnati front office going forward. For the rebuild's sake, here's to hoping this is more relevant than we can see right now.