Bailey, Votto know MLB dreams not far off
Two of Reds' top-10 prospects putting up impressive numbers.
By Marc Katz
PITTSBURGH — At the Futures Game, minor-league players' dreams get a little bigger. For Homer Bailey and Joey Votto in the Cincinnati Reds system, it's a dream a little closer to reality.
Bailey admired the big-league clubhouse at PNC Park — home of the Pittsburgh Pirates — but said he wouldn't look beyond Sunday's All-Star Futures game to a future call-up to the Reds.
"It's not up to me," the 20-year-old Texan right-hander said. "I can't start thinking two games ahead."
Joey Votto, the first baseman from Toronto, has the same "let them make the decisions view," but he also gives that major-league dream everyday life.
"I'm always thinking about it," Votto said. "I watch the Reds, and it makes me drool. It's in my dreams. It drives me."
Bailey and Votto are the sixth and seventh Reds farm hands to have played in the eight years of this game. All five of the previous Reds participants have two things in common. All were former Class A Dayton Dragons. All — Adam Dunn, Wily Mo Pena, Edwin Encarnacion, Stephen Smitherman and William Bergolla — made it to the major leagues. Bailey (2005) and Votto (2003, '04) also are former Dragons.
Baseball America has Bailey ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Reds organization. Votto is ranked No. 9.
Starting at "high" Class A Sarasota this season, Bailey did well enough to be promoted to Class AA Chattanooga.
Votto, 22, also is at Chattanooga, where he is hitting .327 with 19 homers and 56 RBIs in 87 games. And he's improving. Over the last seven games, he is hitting .458.
"Joey Votto is on the verge of hitting for the triple crown (batting average, homers, RBIs)," said Chattanooga manager and Futures coach Jayhawk Owens. "It's called being 'locked in.' "
Even growing up in hockey-hotbed Toronto, Votto always loved baseball. He always knew he wanted to play in the majors. That's why he used wood bats in high school instead of aluminum. He wanted to get ready early for a pro career.
"I've even hit some first-pitch home runs," said Votto in a hardly camouflaged snipe at the former Reds administration mandate to take a strike before swinging. "I was frustrated for two seasons. It drove me crazy, except (then Dayton manager) Alonzo Powell let me swing sometimes."
Bailey also didn't like pitching in the tandem system, relegating him to relief duty every other game. Sunday, he wiped a fingernail cut on his right pitching thumb on his pants and was credited with the 8-5 victory.
Votto? Oddly, he took a called strike on the first pitch he saw before a first-inning single, then hit a warning-track drive on the first pitch in the third.