Recently, Joey Votto just turned 34. Typically, the belief is that in baseball, a player’s prime ends when the player hits 30-31 years old. Votto is a couple years past that, yet he is still churning out numbers at an All-Star pace and doesn’t seem like he’s stopping anytime soon. He’s still hitting .314, leading the league in walks and on-base percentage and putting out a 6.5 WAR. Over the years, Votto has established himself as one of the top-20 players in the league and has been around the top-tier of MLB players ever since his rookie year, nine years ago. But, he doesn’t seem to be very well-known. He’s a good person, charismatic and seems like he would be easily marketable, but he doesn’t get enough respect in that sense. He seems like the gift to die-hard MLB fans: Someone who’s under-the-radar, yet excellent.
Now, there’s plenty of reasons that Votto is underrated. For instance:
He’s on a Bad Team:
Four years. That’s how long it’s been since the Cincinnati Reds have been in the playoffs. And even when they were in the playoffs, they weren’t exactly impressive. In the 2010’s, the Reds have made the playoffs three times. They’ve won a total of two games. Their playoff highlights include being the 2nd team in MLB history to be no-hit in the playoffs and losing the Wild Card game in 2013, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates their first trip to the Division Series since 1992. Since 2013, the Reds have won 270 of a total 631 games, giving them a winning percentage of .428. So, the lack of success leads to a lack of games on national television. The Reds can’t become a marketable team to national television off the strength of Votto and Zack Cozart. They have good potential in their farm system, most namely recent #1 pick Hunter Greene, but it seems like they’re still a little bit away from getting back into relevance. Unfortunately, Votto may be retired or not close to the level he’s playing at now by that time.
He’s a First Baseman
There’s a lot of great first basemen in the league. From Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, and Eric Hosmer to up-and-comers like Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins, and Dominic Smith. But, they’re not very hyped up. Typically, they’re drafted somewhere in the middle of the top-10 rounds out of small colleges or high school. Only two of the six first basemen mentioned were drafted in the first round. First base just isn’t as hyped a position as shortstop or the outfield are. But, first base is typically the position with the best all-around hitters. Characteristics of some of these first basemen are that while they may come from small colleges or high school, they hit well at every level, and that didn’t stop when they hit the Majors. Votto was yet another example of this. Drafted in the 2nd round, Votto slashed .289/.385/.476 in six seasons in the minors. His hitting only improved in the Majors, slashing .313/.427/.540 so far in his career. But, by way of his position, he doesn’t get much attention because he’s not at a position that consistently makes uber-athletic plays, along with producing at the plate.
He Plays in Ohio
Ohio isn’t the greatest place in the world as a tourist destination, but there’s a fair share of solid sports around. While the Cleveland Browns are the laughingstock of the NFL, the Cincinnati Bengals are a solid team, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a top-tier NBA team, and their in-state rivals, the Cleveland Indians, just made the World Series and were in the midst of a historic tear. That leaves the Cincinnati Reds. With all the attention in Ohio (especially considering recent events) on the Indians, not many people pay attention to the Reds. This means that in order for Votto to get more attention and respect, he’d either have to find a way on a new team or hope the Reds improve as a team before his regression kicks in.
Joey Votto is truly one of the best players in the MLB. He’s patient, he hits for contact and power, he’s got a great glove, and he’s a former MVP. And yet, he’s overlooked, and that’s quite unfortunate.
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