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What to expect from Atlanta Braves rookie Danny Winkler

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In 2013 and 2014, Colorado Rockies prospect Danny Winkler was one of the most successful pitchers in the minors statistically: he fanned 175 with just 47 walks in 157 innings in '13, then posted a 1.41 ERA with a 71/17 K/BB in 70 innings in Double-A in 2014, allowing a mere 33 hits. Despite his dominance Winkler never ranked especially highly on prospect lists. His 2014 season ended early with Tommy John surgery but the rebuilding Atlanta Braves had their eye on him and picked him in Rule 5.

Now it's 2016 and Winkler holds a spot in the Braves bullpen. Can he be more than just an extra arm?

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Danny Winkler, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 200 DOB: February 2, 1990

2012: Grade C; 2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C

The Braves selected Winkler in the 2014 Rule 5 draft knowing he would miss almost all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery. That was fine as it enabled them to stash him on the 40-man roster without undue inconvenience. He got into two games in September and looked like he had his stuff back though he was understandably rusty. A healthy Winkler does not throw hard, topping out at 92, but he throws strikes and is incredibly deceptive with his solid slider and change, plus a difficult arm slot for hitters to see. Role will depend on what kind of workload he can manage. For some teams he would be in the mix as a fifth starter, but that may not be the case in Atlanta. Grade C.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:

Winkler pitched 11 innings in spring training this year, giving up eight hits and three runs for a 2.45 ERA. He rang up 17 strikeouts against zero walks and the Braves wisely took him north.

A 20th round pick by the Rockies in 2011 from the University of Central Florida, Winkler has always exceeded expectations. He doesn't have big velocity, topping out at 92 and usually averaging right at 90 with his fastball. He mixes in a cutter and a slider and deploys a few change-ups when used as a starter. Although none of his pitches are spectacular by themselves, they all play up due to his command and his unusual angle delivery, adding extra deception. Hitters simply have trouble seeing the ball against him.

With Tommy John in the past and his stuff intact, I don't see any reason to doubt Winkler's ability.  Most project him as a reliever and that's his job at present, but given his track record I would not write him off as a starter should the Braves need one later. In my view he can provide quality innings in any role.