I asked my lifelong best friend Scott Griffith, a Cincinnati Reds season-ticket holder and the biggest fan of the team I know, to give me a run down on Joey Votto from a fan's perspective. His thoughts:
- Big contract kicks in this year
- Has an amazing .960 career OPS
- Most likely has Asperger's
- Basically Ted Williams with dreamy eyes
I am sorry I asked.
Votto, the 2010 NL MVP and 4-time All-Star, turned 30 years old at the end of last season. Despite returning from knee surgery, he appeared in all 162 games for a Reds team that lost to the Pirates in the Wild Card game. With that new contract, will Votto continue to be the stud that the Reds locked in or will his productivity decline? Let's take a look at both sides of the argument.
- He's healthy - After being injured in 2012, Votto returned in 2013 and played in every game. Although his OPS was down from '12, he drove in 73 runs for a team while walking an astonishing 135 times.
- He's one of the best hitters in the game...period.
- His HR/FB rate jumped to 18% in 2013, so we could see a return to the 30 home run level should he trade some line drives for fly balls in 2014.
- Jay Bruce was productive - Bruce batting behind Votto meant that Bruce saw a LOT of pitches. If he hadn't been productive, teams would continue to pitch around Votto and keep his stats down.
- Billy Hamilton - This guy gives fantasy nerds a feeling downstairs that they haven't had since Bryce Harper came along. If Hamilton is half as good as he has been labeled, him and Brandon Phillips will be able to set up many RBI opportunities for Votto.
- He's Canadian - As I said in my blurb on why Votto deserved the 2013 NL MVP, Canadians are a different breed of people and, in some ways, much better than us lame Americans. They gave us poutine AND Celine Dion. I could go on but now I am hungry. (For poutine, not Celine.)
- Endurance - Last time Votto played over 160 games in a season (2011), he ended up getting injured during the next season. Will this happen again?
- Brandon Phillips - Are we sure the one-two combo of Hamilton and Phillips will work out? Phillips batted just .261 last year with only 39 walks. Will Votto have guys on base when he arrives at bat?
- Can he return to the 90-100 RBI level, or will he be the next Mark Grace?
Overall, I think Votto is still one of the best players in not only the NL but all of MLB. Playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark 81 games a year also helps. I am expecting Votto to continue his torrid pace of base on balls along with more RBI's this season. He continues to be worthy of a top pick. He was recently taken with the 16th over pick in the recent 15 team FSTA experts league draft and continues to be one of the top first baseman off the board on draft day. If your league uses OBP instead of, or in addition to, batting average, he is a top 5 pick, as he continually gets on base at a 40% clip.