Cincinnati Reds: History shows that Joey Votto could bounce-back in 2020

Joey Votto had been the Cincinnati Reds best player for the past decade, but two subpar seasons have fans questioning what lies ahead for the 36-year-old.

Joey Votto has long been known for his work ethic. It’s no secret that 2019 was the worst statistical season in Votto’s career. Joey slashed .261/.357/.411 last season, posting a 1.6 WAR, the lowest of his career. I’m here to tell you why Votto’s best seasons might be ahead of him. At 36-years-old, Votto will have a few more excellent seasons in a Cincinnati Reds uniform.

Ever since the 2010 season when he made his first All-Star Game, Joey Votto has been in a separate category from the rest of his teammates. Separate statistics, separate media scrutiny, and especially separate pressure from an entire fanbase. There were the Reds, and then there was Joey Votto.

I don’t feel the need to go into detail about Votto’s 10 years/$225M contract extension. I don’t need to tell you about how Votto took the blame for the 2010 and 2012 seasons (sorry I had to bring those up). Every season Votto has put together has been underachieving in the eyes of many Reds fans. Even though the six-time All-Star has put together a career slash line of .307/.421/.519.

Votto has a unique approach to the game, and it’s an approach that Reds Country has seen over the years. Votto has separated himself from the rest of the league in how hard he works, and the adjustments that he is willing to make to be the best possible player he can be. Expect Joey to come into the 2020 season with a different look in his eye.

The Reds mission this offseason was to stock up on offense, and that they did. In Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, the Reds were able to add 62 home runs and 160 RBIs. This offensive talent is going to take a big load off Votto’s shoulders, which could lead to a spike in production over the next few years. Joey has been relied upon for the majority of the Reds offensive production, practically since his rookie year.

Votto has had to adjust to not being the offensive leader in the clubhouse, and that adjustment came with a new spot in the lineup. With Eugenio Suárez being Cincinnati’s top run producer, Votto primarily hit second in the Reds lineup for the 2019 season after having spent the majority of his career in the No. 3 hole. Having more time to get used to a new offensive role could pay off for the 2020 campaign.

If Joey Votto is able to turn 2020 into his comeback season, he wouldn’t be the first big-name to do so. There’s a few elite hitters in years past who have fared very well after underachieving seasons on the back end of their careers.

Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Thome turned a subpar season into an All-Star campaign. After playing only 59 games in 2005, Thome was traded to the Chicago White Sox. The 35-year-old put up huge numbers, posting a .288/.416/.598 slash line with 42 home runs and 109 RBIs. Thome was selected to the All-Star Game for the fifth time in his career.

Former Reds centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. struggled during his time in Cincinnati. Battling injuries seemed like a year-in and year-out routine for the Hall of Famer. After only playing 83 games in 2004, Griffey Jr. was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year in 2005. The Kid hit .301/.369/.576 and contributed 35 home runs and 92 RBI, all in his age-35 season.

While Josh Donaldson is going into his age-34 season, it was assumed by many that his career was over. Donaldson bounced around for three years after he won the AL MVP in 2015 and signed a one-year contract with Atlanta last year. Donaldson slashed .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 93 RBIs. Donaldson serves as a great example that elite player’s careers do not end with a bad season.

If Joey Votto can put up numbers close to these three players in the 2020 season, the Reds should be in good shape to be the frontrunners for the NL Central crown.  Knowing the kind of determination Votto will bring into the 2020 season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his success trickle into the 2021 and 2022 seasons as well.