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.