This may not come as a surprise to many of you, but the Cincinnati Reds are not going to make the playoffs this season. Here’s what may come as a surprise, the Reds farm system is not as bad as it used to be.
Sure, most of the Reds faithful are excited for the depth of pitching prospects in the system with names like Amir Garrett, Cody Reed and Rookie Davis tearing it up, but they do have some offense. In fact, it may be time to hand over left field to their top prospect Jesse Winker.
Winker, of course, was the Reds first round draft pick (supplemental) back in the 2012 MLB Draft that they nabbed out of high school. He quickly worked his way up the minor league ladder, showing consistency across the board. He was a steady .280 to .300 hitter capable of 15 to 20 home run type power and a seemingly very polished plate discipline for such a young hitter.
The 22-year old left hander has a pretty, smooth swing. He’s quick and short with it, and while he exhibits patience at the plate, he is still pretty aggressive when he sees his pitch. He makes solid contact, usually pretty well to all fields, and can take pitchers deep into counts with both his eye and ability to foul off pitches.
His first promotion to Double-A in 2014 did not look good, but in his defense, he never truly was able to acclimate having his season end less than a month after his debut from a wrist injury. All eyes would be on Winker for his first full season in Double-A come 2015.
It wasn’t ugly, but it certainly didn’t start out like Winker baseball. He slashed .248/.352/.349 before the All Star Break, with a mere three home runs. He posted a solid strikeout to walk ratio (40:33) so he wasn’t struggling with advanced pitching per se, but he was searching to find his groove. He did that after the All Star Break.
Winker closed out the season in his typical form, slashing .316/.426/.516 with 10 home runs. He ended the season with a remarkable 83:74 strikeout to walk ratio, posting a new career low strikeout rate (15.4-percent) while walking just a tad below his career norm of 15-percent.
He has handled the transition to Triple-A seamlessly, as he is on pace for all of his career averages. That uncanny plate discipline is reaching new highs — or lows as the case may be — as he has walked 20 times as opposed to striking out just 14 (10.2-percent). He’s hitting .303, while sitting in third place in the International League with a .405 OBP. He’s only hit two home runs, but there is nothing to suggest a major power outage, and perhaps he is just a slow starter.
So could Winker fit in right now on the big league level?
I’m not a GM, nor am I trying to be. Winker could definitely use more seasoning in Triple-A to see if he can develop that 20 to 25 home run potential most once saw in him. He has also improved his defense tremendously, considering he has both an average arm and speed, so he can continue to hone his craft so his ready to contribute both at the plate and in the field.
It’s not so much that Winker necessarily deserves a chance for what he’s doing, but more so for what those above him aren’t doing.
He is the anti-Adam Duvall, who is the current starting left fielder. At this point, the 27-year old Duvall is who he is, and that is a player that has struck out over 30-percent of his brief big league at bats, while walking a mere six percent of that same time. He flashed big time power in his early minor league career, and still homers once every 16.5 at bats, however that is really all he brings to the table.
At the very least, Winker is a better fourth outfielder that Tyler Holt. He could very well platoon with Duvall and Jay Bruce rotating the corner outfield positions and developing a chemistry with Billy Hamilton whom he likely will hold down the outfield with in Cincy for quite sometime.
Jay Bruce has seemingly been trade bait for the past two seasons. Someone will likely take his big bat of the Reds hands at the deadline, likely speeding up the Winker, Hamilton, Kyle Waldrop outfield on which the Reds have been waiting.