Cincinnati Reds outfield prospect Jesse Winker made headlines this past weekend, homering in his fifth-straight game Saturday for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Double-A Southern League. He's hitting .417 in his last 10 games, all part of a hot streak that's gone on for more than a month now.
Winker entered 2015 as one of the top outfield prospects in baseball but a slow start for Pensacola (.248/.352/.349 in his first 60 games) raised some doubts. Drafted in the supplemental first round in 2012 from high school in Orlando, Florida, Winker has always been respected for his pure hitting skills.
However, some scouts questioned how his power would play against advanced pitching. He slugged .580 last year in the California League (.317/.426/.580 overall slash) for Bakersfield, but the league context there is friendly for power and skeptics wanted to see how he would perform in Double-A.
He was cold in a 21-game Double-A trial last summer (.208/.326/.351) before his season ended early with a shoulder injury. 2015's slow start combined with last year's sluggish finish gave skeptics ammunition at mid-season this year.
The last six weeks have been much different: he's hit .315/.406/.552 with 10 homers in his last 46 games while maintaining his trademarked polished approach and a sharp 24/33/165 BB/K/PA ratio.
The first 60 games still count of course and his overall slash stands at .277/.375/.436. That may not look terrific but it is actually quite sound in context, coming out as a 131 wRC+, well above Southern League norms. Park-adjusting that number actually boosts it slightly to about 133.
Winker is more than three years younger than his competition. Overall, although it took him some time to adapt to Double-A, he's made that transition and should still be considered one of the elite hitting prospects in the game.