Reds: Joey Votto making second-half push for NL MVP

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 28: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a home run. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 28: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a home run. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

With Ronald Acuña Jr. out for the season with a knee injury, Nick Castellanos on the IL with a micro fracture in his wrist, and Kyle Schwarber off to Boston, the race for NL MVP seems to be Fernando Tatis Jr.’s to lose. That said, if Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto keeps up the torrid pace we’ve seen over the last week, the 37-year-old could very well enter the MVP conversation.

Can you name a player in Major League Baseball who’s hotter than Joey Votto? I’ll spare you the time to ponder that question and tell you that, no, you can’t. Over his last 10 games, Votto is hitting .459/.543/1.243 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs. That’s an OPS of 1.786 and a wRC+ of 334.

While his numbers of late have been ridiculous, it’s not as if this is an anomaly for just the second-half of the 2021 season. Following a return from the injured list after missing about a month with a broken thumb, Votto has hit .313/.416/.644 with 15 home runs, 41 RBIs, and a 175 wRC+. In case you were wondering, Tatis Jr.’s wRC+ for the season is 165.

Could Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto win another MVP?

I’ll maintain that Joey Votto was robbed of his second MVP back in 2017 when the writers awarded Giancarlo Stanton with the hardware. Votto had more hits, nearly 50 more walks, a higher batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. Staton, however, outpaced Votto in homers and RBIs, and squeaked by the Reds first baseman to take home the award.

One look at Votto’s slash line (.278/.373/.556) and you’ll start to see why I believe the six-time All-Star will quickly enter the MVP conversation. Votto’s .930 OPS is just behind his teammate Jesse Winker for eighth in the NL. Votto’s eight home runs in the last six games now have the slugger tied with Nolan Arenado for 13th in the league.

The stats aside, momentum is clearly on Votto’s side as well. We all know that Votto is a notoriously slow starter, and he’s proven that he owns the second-half of the season. During the 2017 season, Votto began the season with a very respectable .283/.410/.576 slash line in the first two months, but finished the season by hitting .339/.475/.579.

Since the All-Star break, San Diego Padres’ superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. has hit .302/.412/.581 with three home runs. During that same span, Votto is hitting .375/.483/.979 with nine home runs.

Fernando Tatis Jr. is certainly the leading vote-getter right now, and prior to his injury, Jacob deGrom was in the conversation as well. If Nick Castellanos can return to form once he’s back in the Reds lineup, the NL leader in batting average could challenge Tatis Jr. as well.

However, for my money, I’m predicting that Joey Votto is squarely involved in the race for NL MVP as the calendar flips from August to September. With players like Castellanos and Jesse Winker hitting in front of him, Votto is going to continue to have opportunities to drive in runs.

One thing that will be crucial down the road, if David Bell wants to be sure that opposing pitchers actually give Votto something to hit, is switching up the batting order. With Eugenio Suarez hitting just .171, the Reds’ skipper cannot afford to let his hottest hitter receive the Barry Bonds’ treatment.

Whether it’s catcher Tyler Stephenson, the hot-hitting Kyle Farmer, or even Mike Moustakas when the Reds’ third baseman returns from the IL, someone has to occupy that spot behind the Votto who actually can put the bat on the ball.

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It seems strange to say at this point in the season, but there’s a real chance that Joey Votto will enter the NL MVP conversation. If there’s one thing folks throughout Reds Country have learned, it’s to never doubt Joseph Daniel Votto. He still bangs!