Saturday, April 12, 2008

Joey Votto: Be Warned!!

posted by Jon Williams

Many don't seem to realize it but there are dozens of great minor leaguers who never get the opportunity to prove they could have been stars in the majors. This can be the result of any number of things but most commonly it is injuries, faith-lacking managers and failed (and short) auditions that are the root-cause. One such player in my eyes was Bobby Hill, a shortstop prospect for the Chicago Cubs. He was a stud at the University of Miami. He held out for major bucks after being drafted first by the White Sox and then by the Cubs. He made quick work of the minors but had the unfortunate luck of running into Dusty Baker as his first manager. Baker gave him only short and sporadic opportunities to prove himself and when he failed to make an impression quickly he was banished to the bench once more.

Dusty Baker so negatively shaped the reputation of this player that he was included in a horrible trade to the Pirates. The Pirates refused to use him as anything other than a utility infielder and sparingly at that. Despite statistically being a better player than both Jose Castillo and Jack Wilson, Hill was never given another chance as a starter. Injuries to his back limited him in recent years. He hasn't appeared in the majors since 2006 after just 523 major league at-bats. Now he is playing with the Newark Bears of the Independent League.

You're probably wondering why I would spend so much space bemoaning the fate of a player that few will remember. The reason is because it could very well be happening again. Joey Votto is a highly touted young player who can perform at both the outfield and first base positions. He is a power hitter with speed that reminds me more and more everyday of Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies. He was widely expected to become the starting first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds this season but then something terrible happened - Dusty Baker was hired as manager. Now Votto sits on the bench and watches 38-year old Scott Hatteberg continue to start and to hit with almost zero authority. I sincerely hope to be wrong about this but if I were a Votto owner I would trade him in the best deal I possibly could right now. Before he meets a Hillish fate.

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