“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.