In any other year, Joey Votto
would have had a legitimate shot at the Rookie of the Year award in the National League. Last season, the first baseman hit .297/.368/.506 with 24 homers and 84 RBI in 526 at-bats. He also posted a walk rate of 10.1% and a strikeout rate of 19.4%. This season, Votto has dealt with some medical concerns, but he's still hitting a robust .357/.464/.627 with eight homers and 33 RBI in 126 at-bats. His strikeout rate is virtually the same, but the 25-year-old Canadian has increased his walk rate by almost five percent.
It's funny how baseball works. Outfielder Jay Bruce
was the most highly-anticipated rookie of the year at the beginning of 2008, but his rookie season ended up being pretty average. Now 22, Bruce spent the first 48 games of the season in triple-A before his promotion. In the Majors, he hit .254/.314/.453 with 21 homers in 413 at-bats. He also had a walk rate of 7.4% and a strikeout rate of 26.6%. This season, he's hitting just .217/.306/.469 with 16 homers in 226. On the positive side, his walk rate has increased by three percent and the strikeout rate is down four percent. After posting a .298 BABIP last season, Bruce's BABIP is a ridiculously low .206. His line drive rate is down seven percent from the 21.1 LD% he had last season. Right now, he's kind of looking like a cross between Austin Kearns
and Adam Dunn
, which isn't really a good thing. At least he's still very young.
The only bigger enigma in the Reds' system is right-hander Homer Bailey
. The 23-year-old pitcher has very good stuff, but consistency is not his strong suit. After a disappointing nine starts in 2007, Bailey returned to the Majors for part of 2008 and posted a 7.93 ERA with 59 hits in 36.1 innings. He posted a 4.21 BB/9 rate, as well as a strikeout rate of just 4.46 K/9. This season, Bailey has made just one (poor) MLB start while spending the majority of his time in triple-A. He has a 2.83 ERA with 81 hits allowed in 82.2 innings. He has a walk rate of 2.72 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 8.06 K/9.
was mostly an unknown prospect prior to the 2008 season but he made a name for himself pretty quickly. Overall, the right-hander was 9-14 with a 4.81 ERA and he was inconsistent all season. However, he still struck out more than 150 batters (8.17 K/9) while keeping the walks to a modest number (3.52 BB/9). This season, the 23-year-old has been even better with a 2.17 ERA and 68 hits allowed in 87 innings. He's decreased his walk rate by almost one full walk per nine innings, but his strikeout rate has also dropped. Cueto's ground-ball rate is also up, though, and he's becoming more of a pitcher and less of a thrower.