Joey Votto, during his career with the Cincinnati Reds, has hit from the No. 3 hole throughout his entire career. It’s time to bump him up in the batting order.
Joey Votto is, perhaps, the most polished hitter in all of Major League Baseball. He has unbelievable plate discipline, which is confirmed by the fact that he’s led the National League in on-base percentage the last three seasons. But, is it time for Votto to settle into the No. 2 spot in the Cincinnati Reds batting order?
Throughout almost every game of his career, Joey Votto has hit in the No. 3 hole. Last season, in 140 starts, he was hitting third in the batting order 132 times. In 2017, a year in which Votto played all 162 games, he hit out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup every game.
It’s hard to argue with success. In 2017, Votto was within an eyelash of winning his second NL MVP, and most Reds fans will tell you that he got robbed. However, last year was a bit different for Votto, especially in regards to his power numbers. Votto’s home run totals dropped from 36 to 12 and his slugging percentage from .578 to .419.
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Last year was the first time since his injury-shortened season of 2014, in which he played only 62 games, that Votto has had a slugging percentage below .490. Make no mistake, Joey Votto will be the first one to tell you that he did not play well in 2018. Here’s what Votto had to say about his performance last season via C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic:
"“I didn’t perform anywhere near to what I’m used to. This is the first offseason that I hit in a long time. There were past offseasons when I swung enough to make sure I didn’t get hurt. But this is the first year in probably six or seven years that I intentionally hit.”"
So, we can all agree the Joey Votto’s definition of a “down year” shows how good he really is, right? Votto did make another appearance in the All-Star Game, he led the National League in on-base percentage and was still able to hit 12 homers despite missing over two weeks with an injured right knee. Votto just sets such a high bar that we as fans expect Votto to be at an MVP-level every single season.
Now, onto the idea of batting Joey in the No. 2 hole. I think this could really work and I don’t think I’m alone. While he hasn’t committed to a batting order just yet, new Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell spoke with C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic about his plans for the team’s batting order:
"“It makes sense to me that you have one of the top hitters hitting second. It makes sense to me you have a guy who can get on-base leading off. It makes sense that you want – if not your best hitter with power (one of your best) – hitting fourth. That’s not a lot different than how we’ve always seen it. But it can open your eyes to making a decision whereas in the past you did just because they always did it.”"
Maybe I’m reading into Bell’s comments a little too much, but it sounds like Jesse Winker will be batting leadoff and Joey Votto will be right behind him in the batting order. Winker, with a .405 OBP, can definitely get on base and Votto is one of the top hitters, not just on the team, but in the game.
If I were in David Bell’s position, that’s how I’d put my lineup together. I think Scooter Gennett could take over Votto’s usual spot at the No. 3 hitter in the batting order and, judging by Bell’s comments, Eugenio Suárez should be batting cleanup. That is a fearsome foursome for any starting pitcher to stare down.
Joey Votto is entering his 12th full season with the Cincinnati Reds. While I don’t subscribe the idea that Joey Votto is on the decline, I do look at this year’s team and think that batting him in the No. 2 spot would greatly benefit everyone, including Votto. C’mon, would you want to put Joey Votto on base with Gennett, Suárez, and Yasiel Puig to follow?
Joey Votto is still the best player on the Cincinnati Reds and if David Bell feels that he’s best suited for the same spot in the batting order that he’s held since he’s been in the big leagues, so be it. However, I think Votto hitting second in the batting order could pay huge dividends for the Reds in 2019.