Giants

Joey Votto discusses admiration for Barry Bonds, desire to be 'unpitchable'

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USATSI

Joey Votto discusses admiration for Barry Bonds, desire to be 'unpitchable'

OAKLAND -- I remember watching the clip of Joey Votto on MLB Network. He was talking to Greg Amsinger and Eric Byrnes about hitting. It was during spring training, in a completely relaxed setting. It sounds simple enough, but when he speaks, you listen. And that's exactly what I did.

From that moment on, I was curious about Votto and what he did at the plate ... among other things, of course. 

He mentioned Mike Trout being the best player in baseball during the MLB Network interview, and when he's asked about that, he admits he looks up to the two-time American League MVP -- well, kind of:

But one guy Votto really looks up to is Barry Bonds. And while he admitted in the past he isn't in the same realm as Bonds, there's one thing he wishes he could replicate from the all-time home run leader. 

"One skill that he possesses that I like is how easily he pulls fly balls -- it's a skill," Votto told NBC Sports California. "And I don't if it's because he's left-handed or he's a better athlete than nearly everybody, but he had that amazing ability to pull the ball and hit it in the air, but also hit balls that seem to go straight -- not just topspin or balls that turn."

I once read an article where Votto said his career goal was to be "unpitchable." A term the six-time All-Star told me is synonymous with Bonds.

"He's the definition of the word," Votto explained. 

But it's also a word associated with the Reds' first baseman.

Now, we know Votto walks ... a lot. Which shows a great deal of plate discipline. And I was a lucky girl on Tuesday night to be in the presence of "The Athletic's" own Eno Sarris who knows numbers. He pointed out Votto's O-swing percentage. Yes, I'll explain it to you.

So, the O-swing percentage is "the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone," according to FanGraphs -- and we trust FanGraphs.

Currently, Votto boasts a 19.8-percent O-swing percentage -- so there aren't many times he swings at pitches he shouldn't be swinging at.

But what does being unpitchable mean to him?

"If you don't throw a strike, it's a take -- and if you throw a strike, there are no comfortable strikes," Votto said. "So any strike that a pitcher throws, becomes an automatic hard-hit ball or at least you're threatening a really good swing. Not only that, when I see pitchable, there's no pitching style that would stand out whether it was a left-handed submariner or right-hander that throws 102, all styles, all shapes, and sizes -- everything."

Votto's asked Bonds some questions before, but they didn't cross over in terms of their careers, Votto explained.

"His last year was my first year -- you know, I don't know if I would have gleaned very much with him without playing with him," Votto said.

"I just watched him obsessively, and a few added players consistently, and I have a great deal of admiration for all of them."

 

Watch Heliot Ramos hit two-run homer in Giants' spring training game

Watch Heliot Ramos hit two-run homer in Giants' spring training game

Heliot Ramos likes the prime time lights.

The heralded Giants prospect proved it by crushing a two-run homer in Friday's split-squad spring training game against the Rockies at Scottsdale Stadium in Arizona.

The 20-year-old drove a 2-1 pitch from Colorado pitcher Carlos Estevez over the left center field wall. It was his first homer of the spring.

The Giants have high hopes for Ramos, whom they selected with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Ramos is coming off a breakout 2019 season as he hit .306 with 13 homers in 77 games for High-A San Jose. That production earned him a late-season promotion to Double-A Richmond. He held his own with the Flying Squirrels, hitting .242 with three homers and 15 RBI in 25 games.

While Ramos wasn't a non-roster invitee to major league camp this spring, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi wouldn't put it past the native of Puerto Rico to reach the big leagues this season.

"We had guys last year work their way through two or three levels of the minors leagues so it's certainly something that he could do," Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic earlier in February. "I think both with him and Joey, just the injuries kind of slowed them down a little bit and maybe backed up their timetable for when they could potentially get to the big leagues this year, but we've talked about promoting guys aggressively when they kind of perform up to levels that warrant a promotion, and that'll be the case for both those guys."

[RELATED: Ramos close to big league dream]

The future is looking bright for the Giants with Ramos and catcher Joey Bart on the cusp of major league stardom.

Wilmer Flores looks to add more power to Giants' lineup this season

Wilmer Flores looks to add more power to Giants' lineup this season

Wilmer Flores made history this offseason. He became the first player Farhan Zaidi signed to a multiyear contract with the Giants, when the veteran infielder inked his two-year deal earlier this month. 

Now that he's with the Giants in spring training, Flores is trying to add something to San Francisco that the team badly lacked last season: Power. It's not like that's what the 28-year-old is known for, though. 

Flores hit nine homers in 89 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, but his .848 OPS was a career-high and his .487 slugging percentage was one point off the best of his career. 

"I've always been a guy who puts the ball in play," Flores said Friday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show." "I'm trying this year to hit the ball a lot more in the air. That's what I'm trying to do a lot more this year. Ground balls are not hits anymore. You gotta hit the ball in the air." 

From 2015-2018, however, he averaged 15 long balls per season and clearly has bought into baseball's power movement with more launch angle. 

Flores should have an interesting role on the Giants this season. The keyword around Gabe Kapler's spring training is "versatility." Mauricio Dubon already has embraced it, and Flores believes he can thrive anywhere around the infield. 

"In the infield, I can play anywhere if you want me to," Flores said.

But he clearly prefers a certain spot.

"If you ask me, I'll stay at second base," Flores said. 

[RELATED: Sanchez brings revamped swing, fun celebration to Giants]

That position is full of competition for the Giants this season. Along with Flores and Dubon, Yolmer Sanchez -- who won an AL Gold Glove last season -- and Donovan Solano are vying for time as well. Flores played 64 games at second base and 16 at third last year. He also has plenty of time at shortstop and first base under his belt as well. 

Whether it's more defensive versatility or adding more power, Flores figures to be a key player for the Giants this season.