The Cincinnati Reds have the most disciplined hitter in all of Major League Baseball on their Major League roster. You may have heard of him. If not, his name is Joseph Daniel Votto, and you should probably check him out.

There’s a lot of things that make Joey Votto special. One of those things, though, is his approach to each at-bat. He swings at fewer pitches outside of the strikezone than any other Major Leaguer. That is one of the reasons that he’s among the best hitters alive. Most hitters aren’t that much different from Joey Votto when it comes to hitting baseballs in the strikezone. What makes him better than most is that he doesn’t swing at stuff out of the zone, making his “crappy contact” less impactful because there’s so little of it by comparison to the good contact on strikes. And, of course, swinging outside of the strikezone also means fewer strikeouts, which helps, too.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say (seriously, how weird is this saying? Who is skinning cats? What’s the purpose here?). A guy like Aaron Judge strikes out a ton, walks a ton, and hits a ton of home runs. Jose Altuve doesn’t walk a ton, but he rarely strikes out, hits for solid power, and carries a high batting average on balls in play consistently.

While expecting anyone to be Joey Votto is an unrealistic expectation of them, hoping they can show some similar traits isn’t. Walking nearly as often as you strikeout makes it tough for a hitter to be unproductive. The Reds have several players this season that are out to very strong starts in this area, and two of them are top end prospects, too.

TJ Friedl and Josh VanMeter both have walked four more times than they’ve struck out this season. Friedl has 22 walks with 18 strikeouts for the Daytona Tortugas. VanMeter has 23 and 19 a level up in Double-A with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

A trio of Friedl’s teammates are the next up on the list. Top prospects Tyler Stephenson and Taylor Trammell both have one more walk than strikeout this season. Stephenson has 18 walks with 17 strikeouts, while Trammell has 19 and 18. Daniel Sweet, a switch hitting outfielder, has 15 walks with 16 strikeouts.

Michael Beltre, who really struggled in Dayton last season, has returned with fire to make up for it. He’s walked 16 times with 17 strikeouts and is second in the organization in OPS with a 1.006 mark. Brian O’Grady, who is in Pensacola, has 14 walks and 16 strikeouts this season.

That is seven players who have between four more walks than strikeouts, or just two more strikeouts than walks. And all of them, unsurprisingly, are posting strong offensive numbers at their respect levels. Four of the players have an OPS over .900 – Trammell, Stephenson, Beltre, and O’Grady. Two others are over .825 – Friedl and VanMeter. Daniel Sweet is the only one under .800, sitting there with a .284/.390/.386 line.

Things are still in the early part of the season, with only about 20% of the year played for the minor league season. But these players are all showing outstanding plate discipline to this point in the year.

There’s no stopping Hendrik Clementina

You can’t even contain Hendrik Clementina. Are you asking yourself who Hendrik Clementina is? If so, you should probably be reading RedsMinorLeagues.com far more often than you do. But, here’s the short of it: The Reds acquired Hendrik Clementina in the Tony Cingrani trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer. He’s a catcher, who when acquired, was noted as a bat-first guy who had plenty of work to do behind the plate.

This season the Reds sent him to join the Dayton Dragons. He’s just 20-years-old, and he’s from Curacao. If you look him up online, just know, that his listed size is a joke. He’s listed at 6′ 0″ and 165 lbs. He may be 6′ 0″ – ish, but if he weighs 165 then I’m Ryan Reynolds (I AM NOT RYAN REYNOLDS). He’s significantly bigger than that.

Last night, serving as the designated hitter, he went 2-4 for Dayton. That left his line on the season for the Dragons at .397/.480/.794. No, that’s not incorrect. He’s hitting .397, with a .480 on-base percentage, and he’s slugging .794 on the season. He’s played in 19 games this year and he’s got five doubles, a triple, and he’s got 6 home runs.

The work behind the plate is still very much a work in progress, though you can say that about most catchers at his age. But right now, his bat has been nothing short of incredible in 2018. I’ll end this post with a tweet that I sent out yesterday afternoon, after watching some batting practice in Dayton:

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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Just checked and I’m not Ryan Reynolds either, but I love this update Doug. Almost any prospect can get hot at the plate for a while but plate discipline is a higher order skill that doesn’t happen as a fluke for any extended period of time. The combination of more times on base AND better pitches to hit is very powerful. Perhaps it’s true of all minor league organizations but the Reds seem to have always had lots of tools guys but not so many baseball players. They seem to finally be valuing plate discipline – Votto, Winker, Suarez and Barnhart are all better hitters because of it. Very encouraging. Plus who doesn’t love long home runs? Thanks as always.

  2. Wouldn’t it be sweet if the organization learned a big lesson from having Votto and became known as a team that develops hitters to reduce swinging at bad pitches, reaping all of the associated benefits?

  3. Doug, how much credit do you give management for this plate discipline? It would be extremely encouraging if they’re changing all the hitters’ approaches down there rather than the individuals themselves.

  4. Who’s Ryan Reynolds?

    And who cares unless he can hit like Hendrik?

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A Minors Obsession