2017 Reds

Coming Attraction: A Look at Jesse Winker

All year, we waited for the Jesse Winker call up. It was supposed to be inevitable, but it never happened. There are a variety of reasons. The Reds seem to want to give Scott Schebler a look, for instance, and so he’s getting at bats right now. Winker, as far as we all know, is still a foregone conclusion. That is, he doesn’t need to audition. At least not yet. Winker, after all, just finished his age-22 season. He was one of the youngest players in AAA and even if he didn’t have the season many wanted him to have, it was still a good season.

I was at a lot of Bats games this year. A lot. For most of them Winker was patrolling either left or right. Here’s what I saw:

Defense

Might as well start at the bottom. Winker is not a good defensive outfielder. At all. He will drive fans in Cincinnati nuts when he does get a chance. His routes were especially poor in right, which was a new position for him, but did improve as the season went on. He is not fast either. He is, in fact, among the slowest players I watched all year.

However, it did seem, toward the end of the year, that Winker was, ahem, strongly encouraged to work on his defense. For the last couple of months, I did see him get to many balls that he would not have gotten to early in the year. This is not to say that he suddenly became elite, but he did seem to find a gear that I didn’t know he had, so that’s encouraging.

He does have a solid arm that would probably play well enough in right. He’s not going to get a ton of assists but neither will runners take bases with impunity. I’d call it good enough to keep them honest.

Power

This was the rub on Winker all year. He’s never been seen as a huge power guy, but 15-20 homer power was more or less expected and he generally delivered in the minors. This year, that fell of a cliff with Winker managing only 5 homers all year, two of which came in the warm, dry Arizona air on a rehab stint. In 448 PAs with Louisville, he slugged only .384. That is not good.

So what happened?

It’s worth noting that his doubles total (22) was reasonably consistent with previous years, but that’s not a huge comfort. I have a couple of theories. First, Winker re-injured his wrist this year and we all know wrist injuries can affect power. I don’t think it’s solely responsible, but I do wonder if it altered his swing mechanics. Very often, when I saw him, Winker seemed content to drop a flare into the outfield rather than give a swing that looked capable of generating power.

My other theory is that Winker was hurt by his home park. Slugger Field plays very large with the wind blowing in off the river most days. In my experience, Winker seemed to have the most power to left-center and that is the part of the field where the wind is almost always blowing straight in. I saw several balls hit there that would have been homers at GABP, but died on the warning track in Louisville. This may also have messed with his head a bit.

If you want to be encouraged, know that Winker HAS shown power. The Reds organization seems to have also made it clear that they expect more than a couple of homers from their corner outfielders. It would be very surprising if we didn’t see some kind of positive regression from him next year.

OBP

Jesse Winker walked as much as he struck out.

Let me write that again.

Jesse Winker walked as much as he struck out.

Jesse Winker finished the year with a .397 OBP for Louisville. You know as well as I do that Joey Votto is the only current Red with OBP skills like that. And from what I’ve seen, I don’t expect it to decline. You have to keep in mind that Jesse Winker is VERY young. He is, in fact, five years young than Adam Duvall and three years younger than Scott Schebler. Throughout his career, he has been 2-3 years younger than other players in his league. In AAA last year, he was 4.5 years younger than the average player. He is still developing. So, while we might reasonably expect a little dropoff when he is first promoted to the big leagues, he’s still developing and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a .370+ OBP guy in the future. He would, in fact, probably be an ideal 1 or 2 hitter.

Conclusion

Goofy is probably the word I heard used most often to describe Jesse Winker around Louisville this year. He is not an intense player, and that’s probably going to rile up a segment of the fan base, especially when you combine it with his mediocre defense and non-stereotypical hitting approach for a corner outfielder. But, regardless of what fans think of him, he is likely to be a good player. I cannot understate the importance of remembering that next year will be his age-23 season and, likely, his rookie season. (If you want to be encouraged, here’s a list of 23-year-old rookies from the last three seasons.)

I think next year, it will finally be time to free Jesse Winker.

47 thoughts on “Coming Attraction: A Look at Jesse Winker

  1. My guess is he starts out at AAA and his call up depends on the performance of Duvall and Schebler. The Reds could also revisit the Mesoraco outfield experiment to make it really confusing

    • Playing any of those guys ahead of a ready Winker doesn’t make sense. If you want to compete in 2018, WInker needs to go ahead and get his feet wet.

      • If the Reds are not going to compete in 17 it makes sense to keep service time down. If the others are playing at a high level it makes sense to have him work on things at AAA.

        • You have to go for it at some point, and Winker likely needs a season in the bigs before he’ll hit his stride.

          Winker in ’17 is the only realistic way to hope to compete in ’18 given the current situation, in my opinion.

          But, yeah, they’ll probably hold him down for 2 1/2 weeks or whatever and give him the Kris Bryant treatment.

    • And the Duvall/Schebler experiment will almost certainly take a minimum of 2+ months before reaching some sort of resolution, and that just happens to coincide with the expiration of super 2 status for young Jesse Winker…

      I Duvall and Schebler continue to produce and improve, then the Reds have one of those toublesome, but very good, dilemas…three players for two positions. A four-player matchup OF rotation for the Reds could be a serious problem for NL pitching, but it would require a manager capable of handling such a match-up rotation, both offensively and defensively. Such a match-up OF rotation could also benefit Hamilton and Duvall physically and provide a serious offensive threat off the bench for every game.

      I expect to see better OBP across the board at the major league level for the Reds next season (hopefully this includes Peraza!). We saw some significant improvement in plate discipline and OBP during this past season. There is really no reason to believe tyhat improvement won’t continue. I don’t think we will see any players with an elite OBP, except Votto, until Winker joins the roster, but a lot of league average or slightly better OBP performances.

  2. If Winker gets on base at a .380 clip, with even a little power, he starts in my outfield six days a week. Platoon Duvall and Schebler, and let Schebler spell Hamilton in center a couple days a week. If there are 21 starting outfield slots in a (no off day) week I’d give Winker 6, Hamilton 5, Schebler 5, and Duvall 5. That not only keeps everyone fresher, it means if someone’s hurt there are still three starter quality outfielders on the roster. Let Iribarren or Selsky be the bench guy / utility outfielder. This is not what I would call a difficult problem to have! Now about those infielders… and relievers… and starting pitchers… and starting catcher…

    • I would see if Duvall can handle backing up all 4 corner spots (LF, RF, 1B and 3B) and get him 4-5 games a week that way. This would keep Winker (LF), Schebler (RF), Votto (1B) and Suarez (3B) fresh with a day off every now and then while also keeping Duvall’s bat in the lineup fairly regularly.
      Duvall has looked good in LF this season after only playing 26 games there in the minors. He played 400+ at 3B and 100+ at 1B during his minor league career.

      • Not a bad idea. If he can be average at 3B and 1B, he might actually be a somewhat valuable piece on a contender.

    • Platoon Duvall? Why? They guy has hit 33 HRs, 30 Doubles, 6 triples and has 102 RBI. His “D” has been solid too. I want him out if LF everyday.

      • Yes, those numbers but also a sub .300 OBP and strikes out at 30 percent clip. He is not a 600 PA guy on a winning team.

        • Duvall has shown signs of improvement in his plate discipline. I also don’t take his good defense lightly: Scoring runs is necessary, but giving them away with poor D negates them. I’m not suggesting benching Winker, but it sounds as though there is reason for concern about him.

      • Pitchers changed how they pitched to Adam Duvall in June (after he spent May crushing everything). Since then, he has hit .235/.297/.470, which makes him a below average hitter. He’s a useful piece but he’s not the answer.

        • He’s not the answer if he stays the same, granted, but he has already been a pleasant surprise. Players can learn and improve. I don’t know that he will, but he might. You will probably, reasonably, point out that he’s 28, but I’m pretty sure that this is his first extended chance to play at this level, and certainly his first lengthy chance at the outfield. Brains aren’t really ossifying by age 28, and he has Votto to go to school on.

  3. I would take average OBP across the board all day long.This would put us in the top 10 in runs scored for sure.I am really optimistic about next year and beyond once we deal with Cosart and BP.I see a bunch of young guys with some upside battling for playing time and if Mes returns and the rest just duplicate what they have done this year we could surprise some next year.If our pitching improves and stays healthy we could be in the 75-85 win category.I felt we would go 500 in the second half and I believe we are 1 over right now which is why I am looking forward to next year.Go Reds.

    • If we had some ham, we could have ham and eggs if we had eggs. But I agree with you.

  4. I hope the fans keep their enthusiasm for Winker in check and not give up on him if he struggles early Just look to Pittsburgh and their Outfielder Gregory Polanco. Polanco struggled big time his first season, but looked very good this year. It might take Winker some time to get adjusted. I wouldn’t throw him to the wolves and start him 6 games a week. Ease him in getting 3-4 starts a week in the early season cool weather and by the end of May he might win the job outright.
    This doesn’t bode well for the RF position defensively. That could go to Duval. But this make me think that it would be all the more important to go out and get OF Adam Eaton from the WhiteSox if they are going into the rebuild mode. Whatever the price, pay it. He is a superior RF and can bat anywhere from 1 thru 4. Look what Boston did by putting Mookie Betts batting 4th behind Big Papi. It may make Betts the AL MVP this year. Eaton batting behind Votto would be something to behold for the next 4 seasons.

    • The Reds eased a very young Peraza in by giving him 3 starts a week. Yet many here complained that he was “rotting” on the bench …

  5. Sezwhom, Right is already taken. My take is that Winker and Mez are big league ballplayers. One or both will be trade bait for a first-line pitcher.

    • Neither one would bring a front-line pitcher unless one or both tear the league up for an extended period of time.

      • Agree. In fact, right now, Mesoraco wouldn’t bring back a dirty sock. He’s been out pretty much 2 whole seasons with some pretty significant surgeries. I don’t think any team would be willing to count on him and that makes him as near as untradable as a person can be. I think the Reds need to hope and pray that he’s healthy and productive the first few months of the season. That way, they can play him or if they really want to let him go, they’d have a chance at moving him.

  6. So, a no defense outfielder with a middle infielder’s power who gets on base a lot but is a log jam once he’s on? Can’t wait.

  7. Sounds like Selsky is a near clone. Selsky might even be a better defender and capable of playing a few more positions.

      • His minor league numbers are nearly the same as Winker’s. Therefore Winker is not a major leaguer. Not only that but which one is currently playing in the major leagues? I guess Selsky is a major leaguer at least for this year and as a Red.

        • Steve Selsky is 4 years older than Jesse Winker. Having Winker’s MiL track record when you’ve just turned 23 is not not the same as having it when you’ve just turned 27.

        • Biggest difference Dan is that a 22 year old has room for growth and as Winker displayed some power in the past, you have to think there is a chance the power will come. At 27, Selsky is what he is. I like the guy but he looks like an ok 4th or 5th OF to me and although nobody could say with absolute certainty, I’d be very surprised if Winkey doesn’t end up having a much better MLB career.

        • Not to pile on… but I’m going to…

          Any discussion of two minor leaguers without mentioning ages is ignorant, at best.

  8. To summarize the report on Winker 1) Bad defense 2) SLOW 3) Not much power. I suggest the Reds should not rush this guy. We do not have Trout, Harper, Stanton, Bryant, Seager, Cespedes, Betts, Bientendi here. He just might need more time…..hopefully that’s it.

    • I agree he should stay in AAA until he shows more power. Otherwise we stick with a combination of Duvall,Schebler,Selsky, Peraza for our corner needs.

    • Yes, that’s exactly what I said.

      Oy.

      More accurate summary: 1) Mediocre defense (his arm matters) 2) Slow 3) Likely moderate power, though a down year last year 4) ELITE on base skills

  9. Adam Duvall is ranked 4th in MLB left fielders by war. 3.3 war, still way to early to give up on the Adam Duvall experiment (defense matters!). I’m beginning to wonder if Winker can achieve a 3 war every with poor defensive skills and average slugging%.

    • Not to harp on anyone doing analysis on Winker’s defense, but defensive projections from the minors seem to be wrong as often as they are right.

      Most corner outfielders project to be bad. That’s why they are corner outfielders and not 3rd basemen or CF or something. Some turn out to be OK, though.

      He’s going to hit at the big league level. That’s all that matters right now.

  10. I don’t think Winker needs to stay in the minors a day longer. He is not going to beat five tool, Schebler, out. I can’t see him beating the others, Hamilton & DuVall out unless the Reds trade one of them. He is too good to be a 4th outfielder or sent back to the minors, Frazier, he deserves to be traded.

    • This continued notion that Adam Duvall is the answer is absurd. A corner OF’s primary job is to hit. That can be boiled down to one number pretty easily. We could use OPS, but I prefer the weighted stats because OPS over-values slugging and undervalues OBP.

      Anyway, Adam Duvall – who is at his absolute peak – has an OPS+ of 106 this. That is, he’s been a 6% better hitter than average.

      I would be absolutley shocked if Jesse Winker – who still has 4-5 years until he reaches his peak – were not AT LEAST that good next year. That is his floor and it is Duvall’s ceiling. They generate value in different ways, certainly, but those are the facts. Jesse Winker is likely to be a better hitter than Adam Duvall pretty much from now until the end of time.

  11. Just a general comment:

    Many commenters above are not paying attention to development or to the fact the Winker’s best skill (OBP) is the one most predictive of MLB success. Yes, you would prefer to see more power. However, the Reds AA and AAA teams are both in rough places for power hitters.

    Further: Jesse Winker Minor League OPS: .854
    Joey Votto Minor League OPS: .862

    Am I saying Winker is Votto? No, of course, not, but both guys were certainly young for their leagues as they rose through the system and both have similarly good plate approaches. So freaking be patient and don’t scream about how a top hitting prospect is doomed because he had a year without much power (whilst being injured) and his glove is less than stellar in a corner OF spot.

    And, in the name of all that is holy about baseball, pay attention to how old guys are. It freaking matters. Remember, when you were a kid, how the big kids could destroy the little kids? Works the same way in the minors. And if you find a little kid who can stick with the older kids, you encourage him and hang onto him because he is going to be good.

    • I’m not giving up on Winker at all, and your points are well-taken. If he wins a starting spot (when he wins a starting spot) he obviously should start. It shouldn’t be handed to him on the presumption of excellence, though. He almost makes me wish there were a DH in the NL. Almost, but not quite.

      • This is not to denigrate Jesse Winker, but I think he has been over-rated in a frankly low talent farm system. Steven Piscotty was a number one draft choice of the Cardinals a few years ago, and is turning out to be a pretty good ML hitter. I don’t see Winker hitting 24 HR a year. HR’s are not his calling card, of course, but I think that he will be less than overwhelming as a Major Leaguer.

        He should get a legitimate shot next year to make the team and be in the outfield. A lot can happen in the off season. Hold him out until June 2017, to avoid the dreaded Super Two status. Who knows who will be injured, hurt, playing well, playing badly?

        • Votto’s OBP has, largely, made him one of the best hitters in MLB history. Winker just put up a better AAA OBP than Votto did, at a younger age.

          Again, like people have said above, Winker won’t be Votto (likely much less power), but he’s not over-rated. He’s got about as good a chance as any prospect to be a productive major leaguer.

      • I’d say having a .390+ OBP in AAA at age 22 is “winning” a job.

        If you are espousing that jobs should be won in ST, please see Boesch, Brennan, and many other terrible players who hit well against AA/AAA pitching in Arizona.

        Winker has won his job. It’s time to find out of he’s a future cog of this team.

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