2016 Reds

Jesse Winker and the Waiting Game

He that can have patience can have what he will.” – Benjamin Franklin

Patience. Maybe the most difficult virtue to master. People are inherently selfish, impatient beings. We want instant gratification, sometimes at the expense of long-term success or stability. My own battle with patience extends to the baseball diamond and centers around one player in particular: Jesse Winker.

We are all frustrated by the Reds dumpster fire bullpen. But until some pitchers get healthy, the team has no real solutions. Calling up Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson makes little sense as Reed recently returned from injury and Stephenson continues to battle some control issues even if his superior stuff has led to effective results.

The other source of frustration, the offense, could be improved almost instantly by the likes of Winker and Jose Peraza, but Winker’s bat probably moves the needle the most.

According to most baseball publications, Jesse Winker came into this season as the Reds best position prospect. In 2015, he slashed .282/.390/.433 in AA, which is more impressive when you know that Winker was batting .229 and slugging .314 before June. Basically, he raked in the second half.

His career minor league slash line (.294/.399/.469) is more indicative of his potential. Coming in Spring Training, Winker had an outside chance to win the leftfield job because of his considerable upside. The Reds wisely sent him to AAA and since the Louisville Bats season began on April 7th, Winker has dominated International League pitching.

As of Wednesday morning, Winker is hitting .321 with a .423 OBP. His walk rate (15.5%) is considerably higher than his strikeout rate (11.3%). In 22 games, he has eight multi-hit efforts and has failed to reach base in a game only three times. Winker currently has a runs created score of 158, meaning he is hitting 58% better than the average player in the league.

The one offensive concern is Winker’s power numbers. His .432 slugging percentage is low for a prospect of his caliber, and he only has five extra-base hits this season. He has never shown elite power potential, but he does have the swing and frame to be a 20-25 homer guy. Fangraphs suggests his power development is a matter of “gaining functional strength to turn his doubles and deep fly balls into homers, as he has all the other ingredients to be that kind of hitter.”

Winker’s borderline elite understanding of the strike zone, and his “top notch barrel control” make his floor at the Major League level awfully high. At the very least, he seems like a high OBP player. If the power develops, Winker is an All Star.

As Jason wrote Tuesday, Winker is ready. His potential plus-plus hit tool continues to shine at the highest minor league level, and he provides something the Reds desperately need: the ability to consistently get on base.

With the Reds current leftfield duo of Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler struggling, Winker may be playing his way onto the team this season. But, the Reds would be foolish to bring him up too early and allow him to reach super two status.

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle

Players begin to earn substantial money (in baseball terms) when they reach their arbitration years. Players become eligible for arbitration after three years of Major League service time, but they can become eligible before that under the following conditions:

  • They have accumulated between two and three years of Major League service.
  • They are in the top 22% in terms of service time among players who have between two and three years of Major League service.

Players who become eligible for arbitration based on these two conditions have reached super two status. These players essentially get four years of arbitration instead of three, meaning they begin making bigger money earlier. Because the rule is based on a percentage, the super two cut off is slightly different each year, but for reference, MLB Trade Rumors displays the cut off for super two status from 2009-2014:

  • 2014: 2.133
  • 2013: 2.122
  • 2012: 2.140
  • 2011: 2.146
  • 2010: 2.122
  • 2009: 2.139

The number before the decimal point means years of service, in this case two full years. The numbers after the decimal point indicate days of service toward a third full year. The super two cut off typically comes between 2.120 and 2.150.

Most Major League seasons last around 183 days, meaning that if the Reds want to keep Winker from getting an extra year of arbitration, they will need to keep him in the minors until roughly mid-June. That way, he will reach only 2.119 days of service time after his second full season in the Majors.

The Reds will save millions of dollars by waiting, and because they will not contend this season, it’s the wise thing to do.

But as a fan, waiting is hard. Winker may be the best hitting prospect the Reds have had since the Bruce/Votto tandem in the mid-2000s. The guys in front of him have largely struggled, and in spite of Winker’s limited plate appearances at the AAA level, he is probably better than both Schebler and Duvall right now with room to grow.

My patience is further tested because the Reds lack hitters who patiently wait for pitches they can handle. Laying off bad pitches isn’t just about taking walks, it’s about reducing the likelihood of making outs when you do swing. Winker’s control of the strike zone enables him to avoid getting himself out. Pitchers are forced to challenge him, and Winker has shown he can do damage when challenged. I can’t wait to see Votto and Winker in the same lineup.

If the Reds can wait another month and a half, they will enjoy the fruits of Winker’s labor and save millions to spend elsewhere.

The strongest of all warriors are these two – Time and Patience” – Leo Tolstoy

Unfortunately, the Reds and their fans need patience throughout the rebuilding process. It goes against our very nature, and yet, we need it to get where we want to go. Winker appears ready and even though he would likely improve the Reds offense, he should stay in AAA for a little while longer.

Winker, Peraza, Stephenson, and Reed may all end up with the big league club by year’s end, giving us a preview of the next winning Reds team. That’s exciting. Less so is the time from now until then when we must slog through games with a roster that could be better. While we hate it now, we’ll be glad the Reds waited in a couple years.

 

38 thoughts on “Jesse Winker and the Waiting Game

  1. Great stuff Nick. Personally, I think the Reds should wait until late April 2017 to call him up. That’d give him another free agent year. It’d be difficult to wait that long, but it isn’t going to change the outcome of this year or next. I’d much rather players come to the big league club “over-ready.”

    • The free agency timeline is definitely a consideration. That system works differently than the super two structure. I wrote about free agency and timelines regarding Winker last season!

      https://redlegnation.com/2015/08/19/jesse-winker-september-call-ups-and-service-time/

      You are right that he probably won’t change any outcomes; I wonder how valuable it is to get him some Major League at bats for his development. I don’t have a strong opinion on that yet.

      • I am actually enjoying seeing Adam Duvall develop.

        I was not sure what he was going to be, and Winker coming up sooner than later will unfortunately change what we get to see from Duvall.

        If Adam has 12-15 HRs by the all star break, what then? I am seeing a Super Todd evolution here and I want to see where it takes us. The kid has power.

        Maybe Jay is traded by the All Star Break and that opens a spot when we have to promote.

        Billy’s hitting approach appears to be improving except for the horrid bunt attempt on a 3-1 count with a runner on second. If that is not a time to be swinging a bat, I do not know what is. His bunt attempt was pathetic. at 9 years old I learned to bunt without dropping the head of the bat below the handle. He did exactly that and popped out to the catcher.

        I would prefer for development sake that Billy be in AAA to learn the things missed in little league. He is not learning them at the major league level.

        I bring Billy up because CF is another option. Not our best but move Jay to CF to keep his bat going, Duvall to RF. He looks like he can handle the corners at below or average. and this year I am OK with that.

        Unless we crawl back to 500, get Homer and Disco to bolster the staff. then all bets are off

        • I love Jay Bruce but don’t think he’d be much of a CF these days. Probably a little better than Choo was out there? Hard to tell. It would also be more stress on his body.

          Of course I’m of the belief that for whatever reason, the Reds want to part way with Bruce so if he’s productive at all, I’d be surprised if he’s here after the trade deadline. That makes me sad.

        • I’m seeing some improvement w/Billy although the numbers aren’t there yet! By the time the Reds are ready for Winker then I would try to deal Cozart or BP and try to get Duvall in the infield…either 3B or maybe a Dan Uggla type 2B? If they could move BP and Cozart then they could get Peraza in the mix. They desperately need to flip some pitching for major league ready bats as well. Its going to be interesting! Several contenders could use someone like Straily right now!

        • Phillips isn’t going anywhere. They’ve tried trading him. Multiple times. He holds the cards and he has said no.

        • A Dan Uggla type 2nd baseman? You mean one who doesn’t field well? Duvall was not a highly regarded defender as an infielder, I recall, but has seemed serviceable or better in left. If Bruce is going to be traded, which seems likely (sadly), that opens another outfield spot and the Reds don’t have two Winkers ready to play for the big club, so it would seem that Duvall could stay in the outfield.

    • I totally agree, why start the clock. Lets say that the reds are competing in 2019, Winker and Reed now are making 2-3 million each. That is 6 million less they can spend on a FA.

  2. The limitation to all of the manipulation of service time is always going to be how the player deals with it. If I were Winker, I would be very frustrated at being kept down so the team could delay my getting to free agency and negotiating a fair contract. I understand that is the procedure in place but it doesn’t mean I like it or that I won’t remember it. And that may it more difficult to sign him to an early extension if he pans out, incur his resentment of the organization for the next three years, etc.

    • The Reds brass thought that way about Mesoraco too and its lost money. The organization comes first. Gerritt Cole is making 550k this year after being one of the top 5-6 pitchers in mlb last year. I bet he can’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh after that and they might’ve signed him for less in 2013-14? Its a roll of the dice

      • Clearly the answer is not blatantly hold players back, but spending a year at AAA is not crazy. Many people would say not to sign players to “free agent” deals or extensions because the value is in young players before they decline. Why pay a premium for PAST performance. So, who cares if the players are eager to leave because of a perceived slight.

  3. Who says he needs more power to be considered an all star? I think Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn.

    • If he ends up anywhere near as good as either of those two, it’s a huge win. I’d love the power to show up but even if it doesn’t there’s the potential for him being a very, very good player.

  4. Nice perspective on Winker. I have been getting impatient even knowing that waiting just a little longer will be the best avenue for the Reds. After watching Conforto with the Mets vs. the Reds, it made the waiting even harder. Winker doesn’t have Conforto’s power, but he has the same hitting skill set. I too can’t wait to see Winker and Votto in the same lineup. I hope the Reds can somehow pick up at least one more hitter like them for next year.

    • I think most people didn’t think Conforto had Conforto’s power. He’s been a pleasant surprise in the power department.

      With that said, I think Conforto is a great MLB comp for Winker.

      • He was Pac 12 player of the year twice

        The guy had one big slump and unfortunately it came against UC Irvine and are own Taylor Sparks

        Comforts had huge power at Oregon State

  5. I think I’m a fan of brining up Jesse in the early July time frame and letting him start his career. Next spring training, I think there’s definitely something to be said for a player knowing he’s got a roster spot. He can then focus on getting better rather than focusing on production and trying to earn a roster spot.

    I’m really not worried about service time past Super 2 this year (ie- not holding him down until mid-April 2017), because if we are upset we don’t have that extra year of Winker in 2023, then that means he’ll have been a productive player for the Reds for 6 years. That’s a win in the prospect game.

    Also, if he has a good first 2 years, the Reds can always give him an extension.

    • Patrick what year will Votto be off the books? If Winker becomes a star the Reds can replace Votto’s big contract with Winker.

      • Votto’s off the books once the 2023 season is complete, but they’d owe him a $7M buyout if they didn’t pick up his $20M option for 2024.

        To be honest, though, 6-7 years from now an “average-ish” free agent will make $25M a year, so Votto’s contract won’t seem like as much as it did when he signed it years ago. There will be money for Winker if they want him at that point.

  6. Bring them up now. What is really the point? We are rebuilding. I personally would rather see if the young studs can play at this level now, rather than when we are actually trying to compete.

  7. 20 -25 Homers is a good number in this day. Let’s remember the days of steroids is hopefully over and we can get back to reasonable home run totals. Right now I like Duvall in Left. Let’s see what he has got in him for the rest of the season. We know what Winkeris going to bring and once he gets here he will play everyday. Billy is trying offensively and Its not going to get better immediately. I hope by August we see major improvement because his defense is remarkable and he is making hits into outs. Love Bruce but his days are probably numbered. If Bruce is traded I would like to see Winker come up and play there. When Rodriguez comes back I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schebler go down to AAA.

  8. Have to side with bringing Winker up now, if he’s ready. It seems he’s ready, so just do it.

    Assuming Winker is ready, several reasons come to mind:

    1. He’s ready for the MLB level; he’ll likely make a bigger impact than what we have in place now. Although, Duvall is looking solid and working hard to change out minds.

    2. The sooner Winker comes up, the sooner he begins working alongside Joey Votto when Votto is at his best. The increased overlap time is worth it alone.

    3. By moving Winker to the MLB level another prospect then receives more ABs at AAA. Instead of just loitering, the Reds essentially complete their baseball sorties and become far more productive with respect to development, fielding the best team, and giving the fans a better product. This approach is more proactive, and very likely, in the long run it provides a net increase in team revenue.

    4. The logic of delaying a player so that we can have more control time with the player at the other end seems to overlook the fact that there are always other players in the development pipeline. In other words, if we bring Winker up a year earlier and therefore lose a portion of his cheaper services earlier, we will have the new top prospects that will exist at that time. The cycle-time where we have Jesse participating at the MLB level and in our control at a reasonable price shouldn’t vary significantly, and the development machine will continue humming.

    5. Added buzz at the ballpark because you now have a Winker playing alongside Votto is worth added ticket and merchandise sales. Not saying this overcomes the purported millions that Nick suggests would be lost, but it’s something to consider…and you never know.

    • A while back I looked up the minor league numbers, on a lark, of Paul Householder and Duane Walker. I wondered how they compared to Winker. I was a bit surprised at how well they did, if memory serves at younger ages per level.

    • #4 should be true, but history tells us it isn’t always the case. Right now, there isn’t another player who projects to be an above-average MLB hitter in the entire system. Ervin might get there, Blandino might, someone at A ball we don’ tknow about might… but it’s not always easy to just have a good hitting prospect to call up every few years. I wish it were!

      • I can understand that good point. On the other hand, aren’t we talking about the gap that may exist on the backside of Winker’s cheaper services for the Reds, and wouldn’t that be 5+ years away? I don’t track the system as well as many on here, so can’t be sure. If so, though, in that time I would think the development machine would respond and have an above-average MLB hitter approaching promotion to the Reds as Winker is either signed to a very rich deal or traded.

  9. Winker and Peraza need to be here and probably will be here after the break.Cozart and Bruce could be traded.

  10. I’m sure I’m too late to this thread to get a meaningful response and I’m sure I’ll be asking this on other threads, but why do so many seem so eager to trade Cozart? Bruce I understand (sadly – I like Jay) but not Cozart. I understand “sell high” but unless you think he’s about to start playing poorly this idea does not make sense to me. What would the Reds get in return that would be more valuable? More pitchers? Unnecessary. A great fielding shortstop who contributes at the plate? Oh wait, that’s Cozart. Honestly with the possible exception of a right handed catcher with pop (sorry Mesoraco that’s not you any more) there’s nothing the Reds need that would make sense to me. If you get rid of Cozart you then need to find a gold glove level SS that can hit. My guess is that’s harder to find than whatever you’d get for Cozart and I am skeptical that Peraza can be that player. Still very unproven. Put me in the keep Cozart healthy, keep him at short as a Red camp.

    • It’s because Cozart is 30 yrs old with an inconsistent production history and blocking some of the Reds best young prospects. I like Cozart as well, but trading him would be an extremely practical move

      • That would have been my response as well. Where it gets interesting is if he is still hitting near .300 at the break, with just a little power, and still playing great D. What will teams that are in win-now mode offer for him? And if Jocketty/Williams don’t get what they consider a good value for Cozart this season, do the Reds make the trade anyway to clear room for Peraza, or keep him through the season and try to trade him in the offseason?

    • I like Cozart a lot too, and I really think it depends what you can get for him. I certainly hope they don’t just trade him to trade him, or just to clear space. It looks like Tyler Stephenson could be the could be the catching prospect you’re looking for. I’d want a couple of good prospects or I’d keep Cozart. Of course if he keeps hitting the way he has so far, they might just get that for him.

    • Cozart has only one season of team control left after this year. He’s on the wrong side of the aging/ decline curve (age 30 season) for a middle infielder seen primarily as a defender when considering a long term deal.

      If he he is not flipped at the deadline, continues to produce to the end of the season, and still shows no aftereffects of his knee surgery, it will be interesting to see what happens with him in the of season. My guess is he is traded or gets some sort of multi year deal; I don’t see the Reds paying arb full price level price for him in a walk year when Peraza is already waiting in the wings.

      • I don’t disagree with any of these thoughts, but I don’t see Cozart’s defense dropping off much for a few more years, and he has just figured out how to be a productive offensive weapon. It’s not obvious to me yet that any replacement would be better or even comparable so I don’t see the rush to trade him. If he continues to stay healthy and produce at the plate I’d be more than happy to see an extension through his age 34 season. And if they do extend him that doesn’t preclude a trade down the road if Peraza or someone else makes him redundant. I’m not saying they must keep him, just that it’s not as obvious to me that trading him is either the best approach or a foregone conclusion. I’d like to see more results before any decisions are made, and I hope he makes it hard to let him go or easy to keep and extend him. Also,it would be cool if he got the Reds all star spot this year. What a comeback that would be.

        • I’m even later to this discussion, but I feel the same way about Cozart. Trading him for several excellent prospects probably makes sense, but trading him for less simply to make room for Peraza seems short-sighted to me. BP won’t be playing 2nd for the Reds forever, and Suarez may not be a long-term solution at 3rd. There are enough questions about the infield to make moving the best infielder for doctrinal or reflexive reasons unwise. Peraza can play outfield, too, remember, and there are questions about the outfield as well.

          • All the issues raised in your comment show just how far the Reds have to go in the Rebuild on position players.

            Maybe with BP hitting like he is, they can make another run at trading him.

  11. One question: I wonder how much any of this will change when the next collective bargaining agreement is reached. After the fuss over Kris Bryant being kept in the minors to start last season, could the service time and/or super-two rules change?

    • Highly doubtful.

      These rules are not in place to help teams… they are in place to shift money from younger players to veterans. If younger players all of a sudden got more money through some sort of changing of the rules, teams woudlnt’ have as much to spend on 34 yaer old free agents.

      The MLBPA also doesnt’ represent minor league players, which is interesting. So they have no real reason to hurt their current members while helping out potential future members.

  12. Will the real Zack Cozart stand up? [I’m showing my age with posing the question like that]. If what we are seeing now is real…it would be hard to think about getting enough value in return in a trade. Yes he’s on the downside of his career…but man, is it possible for anyone to have a 20 or 20+ year career anymore, when the conventional wisdom now is unload a 30 year old.

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