Imagine three young players get called up for a month or so. It’s for that clichéd cup of first experience as a major leaguer. Here’s what they produce: 

Player 1 hits .283/.320/.403 wRC+ of 94 (in 41 games, 169 PA)
Player 2 hits .224/.320/.466 wRC+ of 118 (in 57 games, 200 PA)
Player 3 hits .298/.375/.529 wRC+ of 135 (in 47 games, 137 PA)

Each makes the big league team the next year and as a rookie stumbles out of the gate: 

Player 1 (age 23) hits .193/.247/.349 in May
Player 2 (age 23) hits .152/.188/.364 in April
Player 3 (age 24) hits .174/.278/.246 in May

All three are busts, right? Can’t hit.  

Time to pull back the curtain. 

Player 1 is Barry Larkin. Player 2 is Eric Davis. Player 3 is Jesse Winker.

I’m not saying Winker is going to hit like Larkin and Davis. But maybe we shouldn’t write Jesse Winker into oblivion after a bad month this early in his career. He did, after all, hit .305/.414/.390 in April. And I doubt he’s become physically weaker than last year, when he hit seven home runs in 47 games.

Let’s watch a little longer before we pass judgment. A player can have a bad month during his rookie year and still turn into a great hitter. 

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 10 Comments

  1. Well stated.

    It is fair to speculate that not playing every day could affect Winker’s numbers listed above.

    Why Winker does not play everyday (preferably in LF) is bizarre to me:

    -FanGraphs now projects the Reds to finish 66-96, so “staying in the hunt” can’t be a reason.

    -A year of his controllable time is being burned, and he isn’t even getting blooded to all the parks and pitchers.

    -Raising Duvall’s trade value? The trend is moving away from 30 and over players. No one loves veteran guys now more the Giants, and the Reds could not move Duvall to them in the winter.

    Sadly, I suspect either Castellini wants “vets” playing to avoid losing 100 games, or more likely, Riggleman is trying to win enough with vets to get the manager’s job full-time.

    Either reason makes me feel the Reds mascot should be changed to Don Quixote.

    Reply
    • The Reds current winning percentage of .344 projects to 55.7 wins for the seasons. Fangraphs is having a difficult time adjusting to the reality of the 2018 Cincinnati Reds.

      Reply
  2. I still have high hopes for Winker. Rather get the lumps out of the way during a yr like this. It would be easier to take if the kid played better defense (like Larkin and Davis).

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  3. I believe Winker’s slugging is the key to whether he sticks because his defense and base running are not likely to significantly improve. In short if he is going to play defense and run bases like Adam Dunn then he is going to have to OPS like Adam Dunn; and, there isn’t a sustainable OBP that is going to get him to that OPS level without a significant slugging component.

    For instance despite all the talk about Joey Votto building his OPS on walks and singles, in 2013, his year of “lost” power, he still slugged .491 en route to a .926 OPS This was his lowest slugging rate at the MLB level except for 2014 when he missed 2/3 of the season due to injury but still slugged .409 while compiling a .799 OPS. Winker by comparison has not slugged better than .433 over a full season at class AA or above and has a nominal ~.400 OBP at AA and above.

    Reply
    • Jim, I am with you on the front office thinking. I’m not sure he has to hit for power, but he absolutely has to demonstrate he can hit near .300 and have an OBP above .350. I wrote in a recent comment that he’s not a “tools” player. He doesn’t have speed, a good arm, hit for power or play good defense. In that situation, you have to be a standout hitter, and his performance so far this season has not separated him from his fellow Reds outfielders. I agree with Steve that it’s absolutely too early to draw any lasting conclusions. I think Winker should be starting every day in left, and Duvall should be a pinch hitter and defensive replacement.

      Reply
      • I look around and see a huge potential field for corner OF spots within Winker’s window. Dick Williams has already named both corner spots as possible positions for Jonathan India. Shed Long is on the AA all star team and needs a position if Senzel is the 2B of the future. Dilson Hererra is said to be healthy and hitting; he is another guy who needs a position. Then there is the corps at A+/A, Trammell, Freidl, Fairchild, Beltre et al. Add in the possibility they are going to try Gennett in the OF.

        Winker is likely the worst all around athlete of all these guys. He absolutely has to out hit them all to stick past 2021 or so.

        Reply
        • Shouldn’t Herrera be a “2nd base only” because of his shoulder history?

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          • Maybe a DH only??? The reports I’ve seen say he has played some 3rd at Louisville this season. If he can throw from 3rd, why not left field. OF throwing done correctly supposedly uses the legs much more and is easier on the arm anyway or at least that’s what I recall reading a few times FWIW (or not).

          • Outfield throwing appears to be easier on the eldbow, in my non-professional experience, but may be harder on the shoulder.

  4. Agree with this completely. Winker has an excellent track record in the minors and in all but one of his months in the majors. He must be given a longer leash. Think of the leash they’ve given Peraza….

    BTW, I see that Jesse is in the starting lineup again tonight. I can’t believe how quickly Rig has had to eat his words.

    Reply

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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