3. Joey Votto
There’s no way you can look at Joey Votto’s numbers from last season and not think to yourself, “Is this the beginning of the downturn for Votto?” I know, I’ve thought it too. But questioning Joey Votto is something I’m not willing to do just yet. I’m looking for a bounce back season from the perennial All-Star first baseman.
Votto slashed .284/.417/.419. His .417 on-base percentage led the National League for the third straight year and was the seventh time in the last nine seasons Votto’s done that. The guy knows the strike zone, as he led the league in walks in five of those same nine seasons.
But what about the power? Fans of the Cincinnati Reds are used to Votto routinely sending 20-plus balls out of the park. Heck, in 2017, we saw 36 big flies from Joey. The power is there, it just wasn’t on display last season. Votto only had 12 homers in 2018.
Joey Votto has always worked so hard at his craft, which is why it was so difficult to watch him struggle last season. Some of those struggles, however, can be attributed to his health. Votto played a few games he shouldn’t have after being plunked by Ryan Madson and was never the same once he returned from the DL. Votto talked about his struggles during RedsFest via MLB.com:
"“Last year, I felt so out of sync with my game. I’ve said it before, but I felt a step behind all year. Normally, I feel a step ahead every day all year. So I’m doing everything I can to make sure I am prepared both physically and mentally. I am making sure I am completely ready for this coming year.”"
You can bet against Joey Votto if you want, but I’m not about to. Having seem additional bats in the lineup will help force pitchers to throw to him as well. Votto’s speed on the base paths doesn’t strike fear into opposing pitchers. But, if Yasiel Puig, Eugenio Suárez, and Scooter Gennett are hitting behind him, you really don’t want to put Votto on base. That could turn into a lot of runs very quickly.