C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic spoke with Joey Votto once again before the season, in what seems to be one of the best things that happens every year. There is a lot of good stuff in the interview from the Cincinnati Reds first baseman, so you should be sure to go read the entire thing. The one thing that jumped out just a little more than the rest of it was how Votto responded to the question of “Can you still be that hitter at age 36 (referring to his past)?”

Well, I can’t be half of it, which is more or less what I was last year. That was unacceptable. I don’t really know what I can be, but I can tell you it’s my priority this year and I’m focused on that. As much as we talked about ’18, I was still an All-Star and I was still probably a top-10 hitter or something like that, I was a very competitive hitter. I played well, maybe not quite that well. I performed well. Last year was just nothing like that and to fall off so drastically was concerning to me and it wasn’t fun. It has to be a much better performance. I have to have more fun on the offensive side of things.

For his career, Joey Votto has a 151 wRC+. That’s 51% better than the league average. He’s been an elite level hitter throughout his career. At no point in his career did his wRC+ ever dip below the 124 mark, which came in his rookie season of 2008. That is until last year when he hit just .261/.357/.411 for Cincinnati. That came out to be a 101 wRC+. That’s still the tiniest bit better than league average, but for Votto, the drop off was enormous. Having a bounce back year could work wonders for the Reds offense – but he’s also at an age where even the great hitters tend to struggle to be the guy that they once were.

The Robot Strikezone is coming to a spring game near you

Everyone’s favorite commissioner in professional sports, Rob Manfred, noted on television Wednesday morning on Fox Business Network that during spring training this year that Major League Baseball would begin to use their new pitch tracking system to call the strikezone. The system that will be used moving forward in Major League Baseball is not the one we’ve seen over the last half-decade. That system was radar based, using the Trackman system. Beginning in 2020 the league will transition to Hawk-Eye, which is the same system that’s been used in professional tennis and cricket around the world for years. It’s said to be more accurate than Trackman.

Baseball has tested out some pitch tracking stuff for balls and strikes already. It began last summer in The Atlantic League as a joint partnership with Major League Baseball. And then it was used in two ballparks in the Arizona Fall League. But in both of those cases they were using Trackman, and not Hawk-Eye as the system to call the balls and strikes. That, of course, was weird because Major League Baseball already knew at the time that they would not be using the Trackman system in 2020. Perhaps it was more of a test of using technology as a whole, rather than testing a specific system. This year in the minor leagues, there are reportedly going to be a few leagues that use an electronically called strikezone – though at this point it isn’t public which leagues that will be. We also aren’t sure which system will be used, either – all of the ballparks are already equipped with Trackman, so don’t be surprised if that’s just continued in the minors.

The Reds have just two Top 100 Prospects

Baseball America released their Top 100 Prospect list today. For the Cincinnati Reds it wasn’t the best showing that they’ve had. In fact, it’s one of the worst that they’ve had in quite a while. Pitching prospects Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo were the only two players from the organization that made the list, coming in at #76 and #77 respectively. Greene dropped from #51 at the mid-season point down to #76 despite not playing at all – he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery. Left-handed starter Nick Lodolo jumped up from #90 to #77 on the list, also despite not pitching since the last list was updated. He was shut down due to reaching his innings limit for the year after throwing 121.1 innings between TCU, Billings, and Dayton. Prospects Jonathan India (who fell from #51 in the last mid-season update to off of the list), Tyler Stephenson, and Tony Santillan were among the players who received votes on the editors initial Top 150 prospects list.

Picking up another former 1st round pick on a minors deal

Walker Weickel signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds – first reported by Baseball America. The 6′ 6″ right-hander has split time starting and relieving in his minor league career, but was last in the bullpen for the Texas Rangers organization in Double-A. Weickel was a supplemental 1st round pick back in 2012. That’s the year that the Reds used the 49th overall pick to select Jesse Winker. Why is that being brought up? Well, Winker and Weickel both went to Olympia High School and graduated in 2012. The Padres took Weickel just six picks after Winker was selected. I’d imagine that team was pretty good.

Last season saw the 25-year-old make 42 appearances out of the bullpen, and one start for Double-A Frisco. He posted a 3.63 ERA on the year in 72.0 innings with 29 walks and 62 strikeouts. He missed most of 2015 and 2016 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

24 Responses

  1. SultanofSwaff

    How the heck does Tyler Stephenson not make the top 100? Catching prospects who hit in the upper minors are very rare, especially ones with the physical tools of this guy.

    ….not that I’m surprised. The Reds minor league system over the years hasn’t gotten the credit it deserves.

    • VaRedsFan

      Because they’ve been churning out All stars year after year?

    • David

      I would be willing to bet Tyler Stevenson will be a top 20 prospect by year end. Will also be starting catcher by end of year. Going to be a good one. Will be top 5 catcher in mlb. Go reds….

  2. SultanofSwaff

    Does the article on Votto address his struggles vs. LHP and if he’s open to a platoon?

    • Old-school

      No. Votto basically says he likes the off-season more and more and doesn’t want to think about the start of spring training and won’t until he absolutely has too. The grind of preparing to hit a baseball at 36 and $100 more million dollars is apparently a root canal to him.

      • James H.

        This made me chortle out loud because of it’s trueness.

      • Doc

        As far as I have heard, his contract does not include a ‘No Retirement’ clause.

      • LWblogger2

        You guys are mean… Ok, question, do you really think he doesn’t care and doesn’t want to work to get back on top? Do you know how vain most pro athletes are?

  3. VaRedsFan

    Just a prediction…I’m guessing that with a robo-ump, that there will be several times more called strikes than with real umps.

    • centerfield

      I think it will be that way at first and then the hitters will adjust and it will trend the other way. Most hitters can deal with consistency and that is the missing element with human umps. I also think the best hitters will benefit the most since they usually have a better idea of the strike zone.

      • Matt WI

        Exactly… imagine a world in which a pitch that is called a strike on Friday night is still called a strike Sat night. And Sunday. And all the games. The good hitters will take this to their advantage, and Greg Maddux would have had a less illustrious career without getting the “veteran’s call.”

      • Doc

        Every strike call Greg Maddux got caught at least part of the batter’s box!

  4. Bob Purkey

    I think that it will interesting as to how it reads the high and low strike zone. Will the players all be pre-measured and their vitals loaded into the system? Obviously, Altuve will measure differently than Judge and will crouching/batting stances effect the readings? What will the strike zone actually be set as; at the knee, above the knee, the belt buckle, the letters, etc. Inquiring minds want to know. . .

    • Bill J

      Remember when the strike zone was between the arm pots and the knees?

    • VaRedsFan

      Absolutely Bob…they box they use on telecasts now is one size fits all. With this new system, everyone should get their own box.

  5. Charles Lackey

    GOOD LUCK JOEY VOTTO..HOPE YOU HAVE YOUR GREATEST YEAR YET IN 2020.

  6. RedNat

    Hawk-eye doesn’t seem very accurate in Tennis. maybe it will be better in baseball because size of the ball is a little larger and does not travel quite as fast as a serve in tennis. I have my doubts though.

    • VaRedsFan

      Why do you feel it is not accurate. Tennis replays are the best in the world…imo

  7. Kevin F Patrick

    Does Walker Weickel get an invite to spring training?

    • Doug Gray

      Pure guess here, but I’ll say no. When the team signs minor league contracts that include invites, they tend to announce those. They didn’t with this one.

  8. CFD3000

    I’ll be very interested to see what Votto’s approach will be at the plate on opening day. More crouch? More upright? Back to swinging at first pitch fastballs, or taking more pitches? Walking more, or striking out more? Or both? He is an incredibly hard worker, and no doubt determined to have a great year at the plate, but that only happens if he finds the approach that matches his physical abilities at age 36. I think it’s possible Votto has an all star year in 2020. But I also think it’s possible he has another slightly better than league average year. Which Votto we see may make a big difference on the Reds playoff chances. Rooting hard for Votto, and by extension the Reds to make a playoff run.

  9. Broseph

    Rooting for Votto to have an All Star year, but see him falling somewhere between his 2018 and 2019 campaign.

    His age and declining abilities has me wondering, who do the Reds have to take the reigns over in the minors. I mean, we have three more years of Votto but Indont think there is a single 1B prospect that looks anywhere close to what the Reds had and still have in Votto.

  10. Lawrence Turner

    The reds could just bench or release Votto if he fails to hit. Or offer him as a designated hitter to Toronto as a fire sale option.

    Use MM at first base. Senzel at second. Glavis at ss until he is injured and out for the season by June 15. Put Lorenzen in center. Winker in left. And the Japanese in right. Use the punisher as fielder number four. Turn As over to Kyle Farmer, a gamer, or sign Jordy Mercer, another gamer.

    The reds will win eighty games and look ahead to 2021 season with full expectations of success.

    Go cards and go Brewers. Hate the Cubs. Pirates are just a filler to have a division. Move the team to Mexico City for 2022 and curb immigration north.