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The Red Report 2019 — Joey Votto

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What to expect from the franchise’s greatest hitter this season

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Fast Facts

  • First baseman
  • 35 years old
  • 2010 MVP, seven-time NL OBP leader, five-time NL walks leader, two-time NL OPS leader.
  • Could probably dunk, but just doesn’t feel like it right now.
  • Better at baseball than you or any of your friends.

Organizational history

  • Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2nd round (44th overall) out of Richview Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada in 2002.
  • Made his MLB debut Sept. 4, 2007.
  • Signed largest contract in Reds history when he agreed to a 10-year, $225 million extension in 2012.

Career stats

Scouting report


Source: FanGraphs

Ken Gif-y Jr.

Projections

Outlook

If this blog was about who Joey Votto has been, I would tell you he has established himself as the greatest hitter in Cincinnati Reds history, with a career OBP of .427 that is the highest of any active player and second only to Barry Bonds among all players who debuted after World War II. If this blog was about Joey Votto’s long-term future, I would talk about his future Hall of Fame induction, his jersey retirement, and the many articles that will be written about how we, as a national collective, did not appreciate him enough while he played.

But this blog is about neither of those things. Instead, it is simply about what we can expect from Votto in 2019, and for the first time in his career, that seems to be a little up in the air. It isn’t that there’s a question of whether he will be productive, it’s just that we don’t know exactly how productive he will be.

Last season was, in many ways, a typical Votto season. He led the league in on-base percentage, and he walked more often than he struck out. The difference, as many of us are well aware of by now, is that Votto’s power numbers experienced a sharp drop in 2018. Over the course of one season, Votto lost 159 points in slugging, and 123 points in isolated power. His Statcast data suggests the difference in his batted ball profile wasn’t quite that extreme, but his xSLG still went from a career-high .554 in 2017 to .472 in 2018. Interestingly, Votto’s hard hit percentage reached a career-high 41 percent last season, according to Fangraphs. But overall, he just wasn’t the same hitter he’d been for most of his career.

The question for 2019 and beyond, then, is will Votto recoup that power stroke he lost last year, and what does it mean for him if he doesn’t? I’m in the camp that believes he will regain his power this season, and many of the projections above seem to agree. But if last season was a glimpse at a new Votto that we must get used to, that still isn’t the worst thing in the world. He still finished the season ninth in the majors in xwOBA, according to Statcast, just ahead of guys like Bryce Harper, Matt Carpenter and Freddie Freeman. He can be one of the league’s elite hitters even with Jose Peraza-like slugging figures. And if the Reds somehow live up to their wildest sleeper predictions and make the playoffs in 2019, he’ll be easier to cheer for than any other player in the postseason.