The 2019 season is behind us and we’re taking a look back at how it played out for the major players on the Cincinnati Reds. Today we’re going to look at outfielder Jesse Winker.

The Preseason Projection

Coming off of his rookie season (second season if you want to be picky – but he was eligible for the 2018 Rookie of the Year award), Jesse Winker had just hit .299/.405/.431 in 89 games before seeing his season end on July 23rd due to a shoulder injury. Here’s what Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections had before the season:

AB 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG WAR
377 21 0 12 54 73 .279 .371 .430 1.6

The 2019 Season

When the year began, Jesse Winker was working in a crowded outfield that included Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Scott Schebler. Cincinnati was trying to get each regular playing time, working with some platoon match ups for each. That didn’t last very long. By the end of the first week of May Matt Kemp had been released and Scott Schebler had been sent back to Louisville in favor of Nick Senzel. For the most part that led to Winker in left, Senzel in center, and Puig in right field on a daily basis.

The first two months of the year were weird for Jesse Winker. In March/April the power showed up in a big way. He slugged .511, but hit just .228 due to a very low BABIP. Then in May the power dropped off the table as he slugged just .393 while cutting down his strikeout rate and hitting .250.

Once June rolled around, that’s when Jesse Winker went to the next level. Over the next 61 games he hit .302/.402/.494 with nine doubles, two triples, six home runs, 22 walks, he was hit by five pitches, and he struck out just 26 times in 189 plate appearances. Unfortunately he played his last game on August 18th. His season came to an end with a cervical strain, missing the final six weeks of the season.

The ZiPS projections were pretty close when it comes to the offensive output. He would hit .269/.357/.473 in 338 at-bats. The power was higher than expected, though that can be said for nearly everyone in the league since the baseball wound up being juiced. But the average and on-base percentage were close. His OPS+ was 111 on the year – a bit down from what he posted in 2018 (125), but still above the league average.

What happened?

There were two things that were interesting things that happened in 2019 for Jesse Winker. The first one was that his season ended early due to injury once again. But the other one may be something that comes into play moving forward in his career. As a left-handed hitter he was basically cut off from facing left-handed pitchers by manager David Bell. 87% of his plate appearances on the year came against right-handed pitchers. The left fielder certainly did damage against them, hitting .285/.368/.519 against them. But in his 50 plate appearances against lefties he hit a miserable .163/.280/.163. There were no extra-base hits at all against lefties – but he did walk as many times as he struck out against them if we want to look for something to hang a hat on.

Season Stats

PA 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG OPS
384 17 2 16 38 60 .269 .357 .473 .830

What’s to come?

Jesse Winker is going to be entering his 4th big league season when 2020 begins. He’s been an above-average bat in each of the three previous seasons and has a career .285/.379/.466 line. He’s just entering his prime, if that – he’ll be 26-years-old next season. His bat should get better if he follows the typical bell curve of a Major Leaguer.

But, the 2019 season saw him basically get cut off from facing lefties. With the new rules for relievers having to face three hitters before they are allowed to be removed from the game, he could benefit a little bit – but he’ll likely still sit against left-handed starters and maybe come into games later after the starter exits.

Health has been an issue for Jesse Winker dating back to his time in the minor leagues. There hasn’t been anything that’s been a recurring kind of issue. But he’s tended to miss a month or more every year since 2014 with the exception of 2015 and 2017. Along with his struggles against lefties, this is an issue to look at moving forward.

20 Responses

  1. gusnwally

    I am continually shocked when people on this site and many others bash Jesse Winker.How can anyone not see that he kills righties and what the hell is so terrible about a good hitting platoon.He also winds up being the guy that gets moved to CF and Rf when necessary. I see that as him being better with a glove than most people give him credit for.I am far more concerned about the RF situation. Give me Phil and Jesse in LF Senzel in CF and hopefully Aquino in RF. If he can’t do it look to Castellanos or another trade to fill it. Jesse will be a key OBP guy on a team with decent power.

    • KDJ

      It may be because he was often billed as JDV, Jr, and he has not lived up to those expectations . . . even if they were lofty and perhaps unrealistic.

  2. terry m

    Think their is enough $$$$$$ for Bumgarner and Castellanos ??? I know not great defensive but potent lineup. Hope for Bauer to get stuff together…

  3. MK

    Two of the better hitting prospects to come along lately have a problem in common.They can not stay on the field. If Winker and Senzel can play a full season. The offense can be much better if for no other reason in creating a consistent line-up. With Ervin possibly platooning with Jesse and providing days off for Aquino, with Jankowski backing up Nick the outfield could be young, very productive and inexpensive. But, Senzel and Winker have to stay healthy.

    • BK

      Agreed. I think the Reds should address this by signing a backup OF such as Akiyama or Thames to reduce some of the risk you and others have identified.

  4. Hotto4Votto

    Big believer in Winker’s bat. If the Reds could figure out a way for Senzel and Winker to stay on the field that answers a good bit of the question as to how to add offense (assuming Senzel’s shoulder being healthy improves his numbers). Ervin appears to be a good platoon bat with Winker, and likely a defensive upgrade for late innings.

  5. Sliotar

    In comparison to other MLB prospects, I feel for Jesse Winker and the path of his career. He is a “prisoner of the moment”, IMO.

    Winker’s arrival coincided with the botched re-build years and the determination not to lose 90 games in 2019 for the fifth straight season.

    Now, the team is “go for it” mode for what…two seasons? Plus, once the DH comes, aging Votto and aging Moustakas will likely take those at-bats.

    And, thus, Winker is likely pigeon-holed as a platoon guy.
    Only 177 plate appearances in his career vs. LHP.

    The Twins were far more patient with Miguel Sano (older than Winker by months) and there were concerns about his injury, weight, motivation, as a comparison.

    But, Sano is in the right place, right time as a player … and Winker is most certainly not, career-wise.

    • Big Ed

      Well, if you check Sano’s career, he has a career OPS of .836 and OPS+ of 122; Winker has an OPS of .845 and an OPS of 120.

      As to who was more patient, Sano was brought up in 2015, and Winker was brought up in 2017. Winker is 3 months younger than Sano (August 2017 and May 2017), so the “patient” team is the one that called up their guy 2 years younger? I may need more enlightenment on how the Twins were more patient with Sano. They weren’t too patient with him in 2018, when he slashed .199/.281/.398 and found himself all the way back in High A ball in the Florida State League.

      Sano is right-handed; Winker is a lefty. Sano is an inch taller and 57 pounds heavier. Sano is a bad infielder; Winker is a bad outfielder. And the guy you say is “pigeon-holed” as a platoon guy had only 54 fewer PAs last year than Sano.

      These two guys are not even remotely comparable. Nancy Pelosi and Simone Biles are about as comparable, in that they are both American women.

      Winker is fine. After a slow start while getting back in the groove from a shoulder injury, he slashed .896, as Doug points out.

  6. gusnwally

    Thanks for commenting guys. I think you feel the same as I do. I realize that they have had injury problems. I for one don’t believe that means that they have to continue to have them. Sort of a roulette type of thinking. It doesen’t have to red next time. Let’s hope they stay healthy hit 295 with 398 OBP and along with our stellar rotation bring us a few pennants.

  7. BK

    I wonder if there’s an opportunity to take advantage of the Cubs reported desire to shed payroll. Perhaps Winker, Casali, and a mid-level prospect for Schwarber and Contreras. Schwarber and Contreras are better hitters and will cost about $11.5M more than Casali and Winker. Contreras and Casali both have 3 years of control whereas Winker is controlled 2 years longer than Schwarber. The Reds would probably have to include a decent prospect, too, but it would not be one of our Top 6, who in my view are a cut above the others. I can see this working well for both sides.

    • Sean D.

      uhhhhhhhhhh there is zero chance that the cubs would do this. You can make the argument that Schwarber is as good of an outfielder as winker despite having less control and Contreras is WAYYYYYY better than Casali. The cubs will shed payroll but not for nothing. I love Winker as much as anyone but 3 years of control of Contreras is worth a lot more than winker and casali. They would need one of the top 6 prospects for sure.

  8. Old-school

    Age 26 season in 2020.
    Controlled for years with low salary.

    Career stats against right handed pitchers. .307/.396/.511/.907 wRC+ 137

    • Wes

      Reds should spend tens of millions and a draft pick for a player that’s older and worse than he is lol

  9. Doc

    Too many people want to trade too many players too soon.

  10. CP

    Winker should get at least 500 plate appearances this year. If he stays healthy I think he will continue to do what he has already proven he can do, hit for average, great on base abilities, and show up with some average power to boot. That kind of production at his age and cheap cost is worth its weight in gold.

    Forget trying to trade this kid. I say go sign two more arms in the $6-8 million/yr range for the bullpen, get rotational depth or upgrade if it can be had, and sign Didi. If they do that, I’ll pre-order my playoff tickets!! 🙂

  11. RedNat

    not a huge Jessie Winker fan but I give him credit for really improving his defense last year. I also think he ran harder on the bases then in previous years and I really like that.

    IMHO I do not think an out field of Winker/Ervin in left, Senzel in center and Aquino in right will be good enough to win the division even if (and that is a big if) they all stay healthy. just not enough offensive production and only average defense.

    • rgslone

      I have concerns about the outfield too, but I think it is good enough IF (as you said, it is a big “if”) certain things come to pass.
      (1) If healthy, I like Winker in LF quite a bit. I’m not generally a fan of platoon situations; but, I like Ervin as a 4th outfielder/sometimes RH bat in LF.
      (2) If healthy, AND he hits better than he has shown to date in MLB, then I think Senzel’s offense could more than make up for his average defense in CF.
      (3) If Aquino can deliver on his power potential, while walking some and keeping the strikeouts reasonable (those sacrifice flies are important) – i.e., have a t least a respectable on-base percentage – then I think RF is fine too.

  12. VaRedsFan

    I want Jesse to hit the ball in the air more often. He seemed to ground out a ton. He had 10 GIDP’s, which is a lot for his limited time.
    His fly ball rate dropped from 34% to 25.
    His ground ball rate went up 6%
    Not something you want when the ball is juiced.