Joey Votto explains why he is skipping the 2017 World Baseball Classic
Votto led the NL in on-base percentage (.434) and OPS+ (160) in 2016
When the 2017 World Baseball Classic begins in a little more than two months, Team Canada will be without their best player and biggest superstar. Reds first baseman Joey Votto is skipping the tournament to work on the parts of the game he has "decided were lacking" this past season.
Here is Votto's statement, which he released through the Reds:
Votto, who grew up in Toronto, hit .326/.434/.550 (160 OPS+) with 34 doubles, 29 home runs, 97 RBI, 108 walks, and 120 strikeouts in 2016. He led the NL in both on-base percentage and OPS+. Votto once again had an unreal second half, hitting .408/.490/.668 (214 OPS+) in 72 games after the All-Star break. He is simply one of the greatest hitters of his generation.
It's hard to imagine what parts of Votto's game were lacking this past season given his immense offensive production. Then again, every defensive metric agrees he just had the worst season of his career in the field. Ultimate Zone Rating (-7.0) and Defensive Runs Saved (-14) both say he cost Cincinnati a lot of runs with his glove, and his -2.4 defensive WAR was fifth worst among all players, regardless of position.
With Votto out, Canada figures to turn to free agent and British Columbia native Justin Morneau at first base during the 2017 WBC. Morneau hit .261/.303/.429 (100 OPS+) with six home runs in 58 games for the White Sox in 2016. He participated in the 2006, 2009, and 2013 WBCs.
Another potential first base candidate is Freddie Freeman of the Braves. He was born and raised in California, but his parents and grandparents are from Canada, making him eligible to play for the country in the WBC. Freeman could represent Canada if he doesn't make the Team USA roster.