When it comes to hitters, the list of ones better than Joey Votto over the last decade can be counted on a single finger. Mike Trout is the only player that’s been a better hitter in that time, topping Votto’s 159 wRC+ of 159 with an incredible 172 mark. Over the last decade, the Cincinnati Reds first baseman has hit .312/.434/.532 with nearly as many walks as he’s had strikeouts. In short, he’s been an elite hitter.

But in the 2018 season he was a far cry from the guy that he has been. He hit under .300 for the first time since 2014 when he was playing on one leg. It was only the second time he was under .300 in his career – he hit .297 as a rookie in 2008. He still led the league in on-base percentage thanks to his 108 walks, giving him a .417 mark in the category. The big fall off in Joey Votto’s production was his slugging. It disappeared. The then 34-year-old had just 12 home runs – a massive drop off from the 36 that he hit in 2017. That led to a slugging percentage of just .419.

While his .837 OPS is a mark that is above-average for any position on the field, when it comes from a Hall of Fame caliber hitter like Joey Votto, who had a 1.006 OPS the previous three seasons, it’s not what you are expecting to see.

The ATC Projection system was released today, and Joey Votto is projected to rebound quite a bit in the 2019 season. They have the Canadian Heartthrob staring at a .294/.420/.491 line. That .911 OPS is easily the best projection on the Reds, and comes with 30 doubles, 2 triples, 23 homers, and 109 walks on the season.

If the system’s projections are close to accurate, the Cincinnati Reds offense is going to be pretty darn good. Getting back a high-end version of Joey Votto reshapes the lineup that’s already being reshaped with additions of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Nick Senzel. The Reds went out and got plenty of pitching, and that side should be vastly improved – but the offense could certainly take a big step forward in 2019, too.

Reds add Rolando Valles to coaching staff

In addition to “getting the pitching”, the Reds have also been “getting the coaches”. On Thursday evening the team announced that they have added Rolando Valles as associate coach.

He played in the minor leagues with the Houston Astros from 1997-2001. Then he pitched independent league and winter league baseball through the 2007 season. The now 39-year-old joined the Milwaukee Brewers organization in the 2008 year, where he worked in various roles. One of those roles was as Latin Liason. In that role he helped prospects adjust to life in the United States. He’s served as a pitching coach in their minor league farm system, too. He was the pitching coach with their rookie-level team in Helena in 2017 and 2018. What his exact role as associate coach will be in 2019 is unclear to the public at this point.

56 Responses

  1. TurboBuckeye

    Votto will definitely bounce back. I think Scooter is a regression candidate. Hopefully the continued development of Peraza and the improved outfield production will keep up near the top as far as offenses are concerned.

    • Scotly50

      I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has predicted “Scooter Regression” over the last couple of years.

      • TurboBuckeye

        His first half wRC+ and BABIP were outliers. He came back to earth in the 2nd half. Solid 2.5 WAR player but not the 4 WAR guy he was last year. If it wasn’t for that ridiculous May he had (453 babip!)…

      • reaganspad

        It is his poor recognition of the strike zone that will get him at some point. Votto, Scooter, Winker…. one of these is not the same as the other 2.

        Love Scooter, he has been great for our team and I will enjoy him and his flawed strike zone in 2019, and then I will enjoy Nick and his defense, OBP and value in 2020

      • Matt Hendley

        Would be filthy rich at this point. If you hit the ball out of the zone on the regular then go ahead and do it. Some of us remember todd fraizer hitting a home run while throwing the bat at the ball

    • sixpack2

      Look at the hitters that will be around Votto. The ‘O’ is vastly improved and we will put up better numbers than last. (and last year was not bad.)

    • abado

      I am far from a Scooter apologist, but I don’t think he’ll regress too much. He has produced similarly over the past 2 years, riding hot months mixed with slightly above average months to a season long wRC+ in the 120s. After 2017, I thought for sure he would regress to a 1-2 WAR player. Now he has 2 straight years showing us that he is a legit hitter (especially as a second baseman). I’m expecting 2.5-3.5 WAR, which I guess is a regression from last year, but it’s also an average of what he’s done over the past 2 years, so I don’t really consider it such.

      • abado

        Oh, and he’s also in a contract year, so he has every reason to work hard going into this year!

      • Bill

        good point abado, he has a lot of incentive to perform this year. Hopefully it leads to his best year yet. Then let someone else pay the massive long term contract

  2. MARK MOORE

    I don’t want to say we’re banking on this, but we kind of are. And I think this explains why.

  3. Hanawi

    Seems like a reasonable projection to me. I’m not entirely convinced that Votto was healthy for the whole season last year.

  4. Jreis

    I guess the question with Joey is, how valuable are all these walks that he draws? I guess I don’t really understand the advanced baseball stats at all but he was on base nearly 250 times last year and only scored 67 runs ( with Scooter and Suarez hitting behind him) . Not good. The questions I have for Joey in 2019 are 1. Does he still need to be in the 3 hole.?2. Can he be a little more aggressive at the plate? ( especially wit runners aboard)3. Can he be at least a little more aggressive on the basepads? I honestly cannot remember him even drawing one throw at first base the entire year!! Come on man!!! Lol

    • DavidTurner49

      Agree with you that he shouldn’t bat third but not so much on base running aggression. He’s slow and seems to get tootblanned too often.

    • Scott C

      That is a pretty simple explanation.

      1. Both Joey and Suarez missed significant time and at different times. Suarez missed 19 games and Joey missed 17. So there is a possibility that in thirty to thirty six games one or the other did not play. Suarez and Gennett did not always bat behind Joey. Granted a lot of times but not always.
      2. You cannot assume that just because both had productive seasons that they always hit a home run or extra base hit when Joey was on.
      3. Suarez walked 64 times and Scooter walked 42 times how many of those were when Joey was on base.

      Yes Joey is not fleet of foot but runs scored and rbi’s are both stats that depend largely on what happens to the batters around you and the sequence in which it happens.

    • Bill

      How valuable are walks? Almost as valuable as a single, and way more valuable than an out.

      The only thing you have correct is that he needs to be moved up in the order to best maximize his OBP skills. I wouldn’t even mind Votto leading off followed by WInker in the lineup. Putting two guys with an over 40% chance of reaching base in front of Suarez, Puig, and Gennett should lead to a good amount of runs scored.

  5. BK

    It would be a little unconventional to have two of the slower players at the top of the lineup, but I would like to see:

    1. Winker LF
    2. Votto 1B
    3. Suarez 3B
    4. Gennett 2B
    5. Puig RF
    6. Schebler CF
    7. Peraza SS
    8. Barnhart C

    Fast guys still grouped together, but in the middle and highest OBP guys at the top of the order to maximize their plate appearances. Once called up from AAA, mix Senzel in to give guys days off for the long season.

    • JERRY

      My lineup would be

      1. Winker LF
      2. Senzel CF (if he plays center)
      3. Votto 1B
      4. Suarez 3B
      5. Scooter 2B
      6. Puig RF
      7. Peraza SS
      8. Barnhart C

    • Chris Miller

      Biggest problem with the Reds offense is they have NO leadoff hitter. Winker is not a leadoff hitter. He has even said, he does not like hitting leadoff, and feels a bit uncomfortable there, versus further back in the order.

      • Bill

        The Cubs used Kris Bryant in the lead off position last year. Lead off hitters don’t have to be Ricky Henderson clones

  6. Matt Hendley

    Alas here we go again with the scooter regression BS again. I do think votto was hurt last year, before he was targeted by ryan madison. He will come back.

  7. CI3J

    I’m curious why people think a 35 year old player, even one as good as Votto, is going to “bounce back” after a season of declining production? What, do people expect Votto is going to keep putting up 7+ WAR seasons until he’s 60 years old?

    The point is, Votto is 35, and will turn 36 before this season is over. It’s sad to say, but he’s firmly in the “decline” phase of his career. That’s not to say he still can’t be a useful player. Heck, even Jim Thome, who stayed fairly productive right up until he retired at age 41, put up a 3.6 WAR season in his age 39 year. In fact, if Votto can match Thome’s production as he continues to decline, we should all be ecstatic. For the record, Thome’s WAR at each age:

    35: 4.9 (All Star)
    36: 3.6
    37: 2.1
    38: 1.4
    39: 3.6 (Now that’s what I call a “bounce back”!)
    40: 1.6
    41: 0.5

    It’s actually getting to the point where the Reds need to start seriously considering who is going to succeed Votto at 1B. Again, I know Votto has one of the greatest pure baseball minds since Ted Williams, and that modern technology and medicine gives him an edge that past players didn’t have, and that Votto is singularly dedicated and disciplined in keeping his body in the best shape it can be, but the simple fact is: No one has EVER won the battle against Father Time, and Joey Votto will not win either.

    So here’s what I think: Joey Votto will never put up a 5+ WAR season again. If you disagree, feel free to bookmark this post and bring it up again at the end of September.

    And, as a side note, I put his ATC Projection numbers into a WAR calculator. If Votto matches his “bounce back” numbers as projected in this post, he’ll put up about….3.9 WAR, or .4 more WAR than he had last season. Yeah, I guess that technically counts as a “bounce back”…. But not by much.

    • abado

      I don’t think your bolded statement is very bold. You are predicting that a 35+ yo player won’t be one of the top 20 players in baseball.

      I’m not sure what Reds fans expect from Votto in general, but I think most would concede that he probably won’t reach 1.000 OPS again. The ATC numbers that Doug posted seem realistic and would be a significant bounce back for Votto. CI3J, I don’t trust your WAR calculator. Votto posted similar, although slightly better numbers, in 2013 (compared to his ATC projection). He had 5.7 fWAR. The projection is also comparable to Freddie Freeman’s line last year, who posted a 5.2 fWAR.

      The silver lining in this Votto talk — he had his worst full year of baseball, and was still arguably a top 5 first baseman and posted a 3.5 WAR. If he averages that over the final years of his contract, I would happy/ecstatic/proud.

      • abado

        @CI3J, that calculator also tabulates his 2018 season as 2.6 WAR. Both Baseball Ref and Fangraphs have it at 3.5 WAR. So the calculator is off by a good amount. Maybe 5 WAR is in play this year.

      • Matt WI

        Good find in those differences, Abado…

      • CI3J

        @abado

        Actually, if you take the time to also adjust the .OBP and .SLG to league average (.318 and .409, respectively), the calculator will show Votto’s WAR as being exactly…. 3.5.

        I’m guessing you didn’t take the time to accurately adjust the data, which is why your figures were so far off. Take the time to learn how to use the tool, it’s very helpful if you do.

  8. Ben

    How can a website predict Votto will bounce back? Do they know the cause of the 2018 numbers and have evidence that it doesn’t apply in 2019?

    • TR

      If a hitting artist like Votto, who is in his mid-thirties, is healthy, then he should have a good year in 2019.

    • Doug Gray

      Projection systems are based on past production and aging curves, and some of them also use how players with similar stats at a similar age also produced in the following year.

      And let’s be sure we understand, this isn’t a prediction. It’s a projection. They are similar, but different things.

      • ToBeDetermined

        Perfectly explained.
        Now if I only knew how “Projection” and “Prediction” are being defined here.

      • Doug Gray

        Prediction is someone guessing. Projection isn’t a guess, it’s based entirely on a set criteria and a formula.

  9. Streamer88

    They need to have Kemp shag some balls at 1B in ST and plan on Votto for about 150 games. Sit 19 for the tough lefty starters and save him for the stretch.

    • David

      I think this is a key to Votto having a better 2019. He needs more days off. At least one day off every two weeks.
      He remarked at the end of the year that his exit velocity of batted balls had not declined, but the elevation of the balls had decreased. Bat angle, hitting in the zone? Don’t know, but Votto is aware of what happened in 2018, regarding his drop off in power. I think he can get his BA up next year to + 0.300 again, and increase his extra base power, but I would guess off hand that 2 of his next four seasons will be “not as good”, just because he is getting older.

      • David

        Further, I would have Eugenio Suarez play first and Senzel play third on Joey’s “days off”. I look at Suarez as maybe the next 1st baseman, and Senzel playing at third.
        I don’t know if Kemp would accept the idea of being a kind of utility man for Joey. But…who knows?

  10. CFD3000

    Votto had a rough year in 2018 – that’s a fact. He also had an MVP caliber year in 2017. Not just 2010 – 2017. We know he was not fully healthy through all of 2018, and many suspect he was also fighting health issues that were less than DL severity.

    Of course it’s possible that 2017 was Votto’s last good year. He’s not young any more. But if he’s healthy I will be shocked if he does not have a much better 2019. I suspect he’s already spent more time assessing what needs to change for this year than we’ve spent collectively wondering if he’ll bounce back or not, and again I’ll be shocked if he’s not in amazing shape on Opening Day. I do expect a strong year from Votto and I for one am looking forward to it.

    • Michael Smith

      @CFD3000

      We really need to look at what we consider a good year.

      Votto’s 2018 was a good year with an ops+ of 125.
      2015-2017 was among the best stretches ever by a read with ops+ 174,160 and 167.

      Having said that did you mean 2017 might have been Joey’s last MVP type season?

      • CFD3000

        Michael –
        I agree that Votto had a good 2018. But most Reds fans, and certainly Votto himself, would say it was still disappointing. He’s an elite hitter and last year wasn’t elite. I was pointing out to the doomsayers that we’re literally just one year removed from an MVP caliber season. That alone suggests that he’s far from done being a major force at the plate. Add in a return to full health, an incredible hitting acumen, and a style that should age gracefully (and has so far) and I fully expect another elite season in 2019. Do I think he’ll win another MVP? Probably not. There are some really good 25 year olds in the league. But do I think he’ll never again receive any votes from the MVP ballots? Nope. I think he’s far from done.

  11. Michael Smith

    @CI3J

    and it doesnt explain the jump in September after his stint on the DL. July was a bad month. September was much better (still not great but good). His September slugging was right in line with what Scooter did in the second half of the season.

    • CI3J

      The September jump could be explained by saying that Votto was just better rested. When you’re 35, you don’t recover as quickly as you used to, so tend to start wearing down over the course of 162 games, which seemed like was happening to Votto in July. Then he went on the DL and came back and played better, which is inline with his body being given a chance to fully rest and recover.

      It’s all speculation on our part, of course, but I feel that’s a plausible explanation.

  12. Matt WI

    Ted Williams OPS’d .791 in his age 40 season, and then came out and OPS’d 1.096 in his final age 41 season. Things happen. It may never be THAT kind of good again for Votto, and I recognize that Williams is an outlier example, I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to think of Joey Votto as an outlier, especially being 35.

  13. WVRedlegs

    I’m not worried or concerned about Votto. I heard an interview with him at the end of last season where he said he knew what he had to work on and that he was going to work hard on it correcting the issue over the winter. He didn’t elaborate on what the issue was, but I have much faith in him returning to his old self. If he can score 100+ runs, drive in 100+ runs, and hit about 25 HR’s, we’ll take whatever slash line he hits. Which will probably be .300+/.400+/.500+.
    My concerns are with 3 other lefty hitters, Scooter, Schebler and Barnhart. My fear is these 3 will pose a drag to the offense.

    • reaganspad

      Agreed WV. Why would Votto tell us what he is working on so that all of the major league pitchers could note his adjustment.

      Joey will be Joey. I am all for Streamers suggestion that Kemp get a 1st baseman’s mitt broken in this spring. He will need the abs and Joey can use some breaks

    • DB

      I think his crouched rose like batting stance last season killed his power. Not sure why he was trying to reinvent himself at the plate.

  14. matthew hendley

    More and more, I am seeing this garbage about Scooter regressing, or he wont be good. Please tell me how an individual put up a 4+ WAR season, WHILE INJURED. On another year he was supposed to regress. Made the All star Game, While he was INJURED and supposed to regress. Votto had at least a month where he was for sure injured, and was probably injured for another portion. He would benefit from a couple dozen games of a mini platoon partner. He will do better this year then last, but probably not as well as 2017. I would like to see one more MVP season from him.

  15. Old-school

    I would DH Votto at least 5 of the 10 road AL games and give him another 8-10 games off. The schedule is unlike any other.

    April has a long west coast road trip starting in Mexico against the Cards.

    May has another to the Bay area.

    June has a 2 game stop in Anaheim from Milwaukee.
    September has a 4 th trip to the West Coast at Seattle/Arizona.

    Ten DH games and 4 west coast trips should give Bell lots of opportunities to use a flexible roster.

    • Matt WI

      Those are some good thoughts about smartly deploying him.

  16. gusnwally

    In my opinion, Joey screwed himself up last year. Working on that stupid inside out swing. Yea, it was supposed to ward off inside pitches. But, he took those stupid half swings constantly. Even in the on deck circle he obsessed with them. I hope WV is right that Joey knows what he was doing wrong.

    • DB

      Not to mention the stupid crouched
      batting stance he employed last season. I think he tends to overthink things . With his power ability and playing half of his games in a bandbox he should be looking to do damage and crushing the baseball.

  17. Matt WI

    But what do the projections have for Votto hitting in April? I remember a poster around here last year who strongly argued that Votto coming out of the gate slow was more (negatively) impactful than any other part of the season. I want to assuage those fears 😉

  18. WVRedlegs

    Joey Votto needs 31 HR’s to reach 300 for his career.
    Joey Votto needs 103 RBI’s to reach 1000 for his career.
    It would be nice to see him reach both milestones on the same hit sometime in September 2019.

  19. Roger Garrett

    Joey’s bounce back to me will be based solely on where he hits and who hits behind him.Will Puig and or Kemp become that big right handed thumper?Joey will never change his approach at the plate by going out of the zone so he will get his walks but I dare say not as many because the guy behind him could turn that into two runs really quickly.He will see a bunch of good pitches to hit.

    • Streamer88

      I’ll add to your point here. Joeys April and May will be crucial because I think he’ll more inside fastballs than he’s ever seen in his career.

      Opposing teams will see his power drop last year and will test him to see if he’s become a slap hitter. You can’t take a strike and walk. They’re going to challenge him much more. If he responds, he’ll do considerable damage and they’ll back off by the AS break. If he struggles, even his OBP will take a hit because teams will stop nibbling and just come at him.

      Will be critical IMO.

  20. Still a Red

    Is the more-crouched stance for real or a subjective observation? If for real, it might explain his measured increase in exit velocity and decrease in launch angle, which in turn explains his drop in H.R.s and slight drop in dbls. The inside-out swing is not at all new and has been one of Joey’s signature traits for years.