[This post was written by loyal Nation member, Warren Leeman, a regular commenter under the name Shchi Cossack. We asked Warren to elaborate on a comment he made a couple days ago. And he did! Thanks, Warren!]
Paging Jesse Winker … Jesse Winker, please …
OK, let’s get the disclaimers out of the way right off the top. The Old Cossack has been a Jesse Winker fan since his first year playing full season ball for the Dayton Dragons in 2013. That hasn’t changed. I have never viewed Winker as the savior for the Reds. More that Winker represented what the prior Walt Jocketty regime failed to recognize or fully value, the ability to get on base with extraordinary capability. Players like Joey Votto and Ryan Hanigan were undervalued. In fact, the Reds organization did everything to try and force all prospects, including those three, to forego getting on base in favor of home runs.
Jesse Winker career minor league: .297/.397/.447/.844
Jesse Winker AAA: .303/.393/.397/.780
Winker suffered a significant wrist injury while playing at AA and reaggravated it while playing at AAA. This coincided with a significant drop in power (.151 ISO at AA in 2015). Winker’s best power production also coincided with his play at Bakersfield in the PCL (.263 ISO at A+ in 2014), a league known for hitting.
It’s now 2017 and the Jocketty regime has been replaced by the beginnings of the Dick Williams regime atop the Reds Baseball Operations, so enough with the disclaimers.
Billy Hamilton was plugged in as the starting CF and anointed the leadoff hitter going into 2014, despite having just one season in AAA.
Billy Hamilton AAA (2013): .256/.308/.343/.651
Hamilton has maintained the same offensive production at the plate over the next 4 seasons at the major league level.
Career MLB: .247/.297/.331/.628
This is Billy Hamilton. An MLB player with elite speed, elite CF defense, elite base running, susceptibility to injury and lack of on-base skills and power.
In 2016, Adam Duvall had an exceptional first half and subpar second half while Scott Schebler had an abysmal first half and spectacular second half. Going into 2017, the Reds had a simple request, “Will the real Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler, please stand up?” Despite skepticism from numerous critics and detractors, Duvall and Schebler stepped up in the most glorious fashion, fully demonstrating on the field that they belonged as starting corner OF. They have nothing left to prove at this point. The results caught the Reds by surprise and somewhat unprepared regarding Jesse Winker, their designated next-man-up when one or both of the corner OF stumbled.
The Reds now have ample evidence for what to expect from Billy Hamilton and significant evidence for what to expect from Duvall and Schebler. The Reds have no information regarding what to expect from Winker at the major league level and a tough situation to balance and resolve if they intend to find out. Duvall and Schebler have earned playing time. They do not deserve to have it significantly reduced to accommodate the unproven Winker. On the other hand, Billy Hamilton has proven to be a flawed hitter and his playing time could be reduced to accommodate Winker.
Problem: Winker does not play CF.
In similar fashion, Jose Peraza was anointed a starting middle IF (temporarily at 2B) heading into the 2017 season. Then the Reds picked up Scooter Gennett off waivers as a reasonably cost-effective LH bench option. Then 2017 went haywire. Zack Cozart and Scooter Gennett played out of their ever-loving minds while Peraza tanked.
IF (he said IF) the Reds want to use the second half of 2017 as a season for sorting to determine the BEST options for 2018 and the future, here’s how they could accomplish that goal:
Beginning with the first game after the All Star break and continuing through game 162:
Billy Hamilton starts 75% of the games in CF
Jesse Winker starts 75% of the games as a corner OF
Adam Duvall starts 75% of the games as a corner OF
Scott Schebler starts 50% of the games as a corner OF & 25% of the games as a CF
Scooter Gennett starts at 2B against RHP
Dilson Herrera starts at 2B against LHP
Jose Peraza starts 1/2 of the games at SS
Zack Cozart starts 1/2 of the games at SS
Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza have failed to establish themselves as key performers for the Reds future. But my proposal still gives them 50% of the playing time to prove their value.
Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler deserve to play, but for the good of the organization, must sacrifice playing time in the effort to find out what Winker can do at the major league level.
Jesse Winker should hit leadoff in every game he starts, for no other reason than to maximize his plate appearances. He’s been completely shut out during the 1st half of the season. Eugenio Suarez can lead off whenever Winker does not start and can hit second otherwise. Zack Cozart and Jose Peraza are additional options for the #2 hole.
Votto locks down the #3 hole and plays as much as possible during the second half on his way to a possible MVP performance on a last place Reds team.
Adam Duvall anchors the clean spot with Schebler and Cozart covering the #5 & #6 holes in the lineup. The catcher covers the #7 hole and Hamilton bats ninth for the majority of the games. Peraza can be moved to ninth when Hamilton doesn’t start.
Arismendy Alcantara is out of options and is on the 25-man and 40-man rosters. Who cares! DFA Alcantara and bring up Dilson Herrera to platoon at 2B. Herrera is playing well and appears healthy. Let’s see what he can do. Scooter has a massive platoon split. If he’s going to be a factor going forward, his role will almost certainly be restricted to playing against RH starting pitchers. Herrera should start against every LH starting pitcher.
IF the Reds choose to not utilize the second half of 2017 to determine the best options for 2018 and the future, then Jesse Winker should stays in AAA and quit riding the Louisville shuttle to Cincinnati. Winker has options left and still has questions regarding his power as a corner OF. He does not need to become a HR threat, but he does need to hit with more authority and prove he can maintain a .150 ISO as a doubles machine.