Best Cincinnati Reds Ever: Joey Votto v. Felipe Lopez

Apr 4, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto watches from the dugout during the sixth inning against Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto watches from the dugout during the sixth inning against Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

First Round Matchup No. 1 Joey Votto v. No. 16 Felipe Lopez

Joey Votto

Without a doubt, the best Cincinnati Reds hitter of the 21st century — with an argument for the best in the team’s history — is Votto. To date, the 10-year veteran has hit .310 with 277 doubles, 193 home runs and 639 runs batted in. He also has one of the best eyes in the history of the sport, with his career .422 on-base percentage currently ranking 17th on the all-time list.

The Toronto native was taken as a catcher in the second round of the 2002 draft and after switching positions to first base, he debuted in September 2007. Votto really burst onto the scene in 2008 by finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting behind the Chicago Cubs’ Geovany Soto. He took another leap forward in his second full season and by his third in 2010, he had established himself as the undisputed face of the Reds and one of the best players in the game.

Votto was named to the NL All-Star team for the first time in his career — his first of four straight selections — and helped lead the Reds to their first playoff appearance in 15 years. For his efforts, he was named the NL Most Valuable Player, beating out Albert Pujols by hitting .324/.424/.600 with 37 home runs, 113 runs batted in and a 6.9 fWAR. After another brilliant season in 2011, he was signed to a 10-year, $225 million contract extension.

He followed that up with what may have been his best career season had he not suffered a torn left meniscus midway through the year. In 111 games in the 2012 season, Votto hit .337/.474/.567 with 44 (!) doubles, 14 homers and 56 runs batted in. His 5.7 fWAR was 14th in baseball despite missing 51 games. While his power numbers were down in 2013, he came back healthy to finish sixth in NL MVP voting, playing in all 162 games and leading the majors in walks (135) and OBP (.435).

The following year proved to be a wash for Votto, as he missed 100 games with a quadriceps injury in the same leg he injured in 2012. Fully healthy in 2015, he returned to MVP-caliber form, slashing .314/.459/.541 with 29 homers and a 7.4 fWAR, the best of his career.

Votto’s career is far from over, but he’s already made his mark on Reds history, ranking first in OBP, OPS and wRC+, second in slugging percentage, eighth in batting average, 11th in doubles and home runs, and 12th in fWAR. Yeah, he’s good.

Felipe Lopez

While Lopez didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Cincinnati, he undoubtedly left his mark before he was traded away.

Touted as a top-100 prospect in the game by Baseball America, the switch-hitting shortstop spent his first two big-league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Reds acquired him in 2002 in a four-way trade that saw pitcher Elmer Dessens shipped off to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lopez had two mediocre seasons on the Reds’ bench while backing up Barry Larkin in the final years of his career before winning the job outright during spring training of 2005.

That year, Lopez had the best season of his career, hitting .291/.352/.486 with 62 extra-base hits, 85 runs batted in and 15 stolen bases to win the NL Silver Slugger award at his position. Additionally, his 4.7 fWAR was tied with Miguel Tejada for the best mark among shortstops and he was named the Reds’ lone representative in the All-Star game.

The future looked bright for Lopez and the Reds had seemingly found their long-term replacement for Larkin to continue the franchise’s long stretch of top-tier shortstops. But he was not long for Cincinnati, as then-general manager Wayne Krivsky shipped him off to the Washington Nationals in July 2006 as a part of a bizarre, widely criticized eight-player deal. It ultimately didn’t work out for either team and Lopez spent much of the rest of his career as a bench player. The deal also marked the beginning of the revolving door at shortstop for the Reds until Zack Cozart eventually took the job in 2012.

In his final (half) year in Cincinnati, Lopez hit .268/.355/.394 with 24 extra-base hits and 23 stolen bases in 85 games.

He would go on to play five more seasons for six different teams. He hasn’t officially retired and is still just 35 years old, but hasn’t appeared in a major-league game since 2011. In February, it was reported by SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo that Lopez was interested in making a comeback, though he never wound up being signed.

Next: Find the full bracket here!

We have a feeling this will end up being a very one-sided vote, but maybe there are some big-time Felipe Lopez fans out there. Whatever the case may be, make sure to have your internet voice heard and vote!

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