Last year, Joey Votto was coming off a 2021 campaign that saw him post the best numbers of his career since his second-place NL MVP season in 2017. Votto slashed .266/.375/.563 and led the team in home runs with 36 while also racking up 99 runs batted in.
But in 2022 the six-time All-Star was unable to recapture that same magic from the year before. At 38 years old, Votto looked a step slower and hit just .205/.319/.370 and ended his season on the IL after undergoing shoulder and biceps surgery in August.
Votto is nearing a return to the Cincinnati Reds lineup this week, and the "protection" that the former MVP will have in this year's Reds lineup will be the best he's had in years.
Joey Votto will have protection up and down the Reds lineup.
Tommy Pham, Aristides Aquino, Kyle Farmer, and Matt Reynolds. Those were the bats that were most often joining Joey Votto on David Bell's lineup card in 2022.
Jonathan India missed a good chunk of time with a hamstring injury and, even after returning from the IL, was never really himself. Tyler Stephenson, another talented bat in the middle of the Reds lineup, only played in 50 games last season.
But this season, Votto will be surrounded by the like of rejuvenated India, a surging Stephenson, explosive rookies like Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, and Spencer Steer, plus TJ Friedl and Jake Fraley.
This is the best group of hitters that Votto will have seen since the 2021 season in which players like Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez, and Jesse Winker were protecting him. The aforementioned Jonathan India was part of that team as well and won Rookie of the Year that season. Both Castellanos ans Winker went to the All-Star Game and Geno's good vibes accounted for 31 homers.
Where Reds manager David Bell decides to squeeze Joey Votto into the batting order is an interesting question. So long as he's hitting behind Elly De La Cruz to prevent him from getting run over on the base paths by someone half his age, Votto should find plenty of protection up and down the lineup.
On this year's Reds team, Votto can be just "a" guy and not "the" guy. This will be the most potent offensive team that Votto has been on in quite some time.