Jesse Winker

Position: RF
Level: Triple-A
Affiliate: Louisville Bats
Age: 22 yrs, 11m
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
B/T: Left / Left
Acquired: 1st Rd, (CRA, #49 overall), 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (CIN)

Prospect Spotlight

The Reds’ Compensation Round A pick (#49 overall) in the 2012 MLB Draft, Winker has displayed a unique level of comfort at the plate throughout his brief professional career. In 2013, his first full season as a pro, he was the Reds’ Minor League Hitter of the Year after putting up a .281 AVG, .379 OBP and .841 OPS in the Class A Midwest League. He did not show the swing-and-miss struggles that can afflict young hitters who are just getting their feet wet, but went on to walk 63 times in 483 PAs while only striking out 75 times. Not bad for a kid straight out of high school. In the three years since, Winker has not slowed his on-base onslaught, reaching base at .399 OBP across two levels in 2014 and .390 OBP in 2015, his first full season at Double-A. So far in 2016 he is sitting at a .384 OBP through his first 384 PAs at Triple-A Louisville, while only striking out about 13% of the time.

Winker stays pretty upright in the box and has a short, simple load with a level swing plane, keeping the barrel in the zone for an extended period. He doesn’t have a lot of movement with his hands as the ball is traveling and can be very quick inside. He tends to pull off the outer third of the plate at times, but he has good feel for the barrel and is able to keep his hands back when he’s fooled. He has good power to pull and is a strong kid, but he keeps the ball on the ground (1.45 GO/AO career rate) and the damage potential tends to lean more towards line drives in the gaps rather than home runs. Pre-2016, he was averaging about 13-to-15 HR’s a year, and based on his BP rounds, my guess is that most of those have been to the pull side. He has the pop to drive the ball out to center and left field, but he does not stay on the outer third of the plate as well as he could, with the hips opening early, leaving his hands to generate all the power the other way. His hands are so good however, that he is able to stay on those pitches enough to get enough barrel to them. This weakness out-and-away was exposed some last season when facing the stronger Double-A pitching when he hit .211 vs. lefties with only seven extra base hits (.326 SLG vs. LHP/.423 SLG vs. RHP in 2015). He still saw the ball well however with a 1.4 SO:BB ratio.   As he is advancing, it makes sense that pitchers are exploiting this tendency and they’ll continue to do so until he shows that he is able to hit the ball with some authority to the middle of the field.

His power numbers across the board have fallen significantly in 2016, with a .377 SLG over 297 ABs, and with only five extra base hits in 89 ABs vs. lefties. That said, the plus on-base ability has remained, checking in with a .384 OBP to date (includes 15 BBs to 18 Ks vs. LHP); so he is seeing the ball and not expanding the zone.Winker is a strong kid and a good athlete, and he has hand speed and is able to drive the left-center field gap. I don’t think many really saw him as a power prospect from the get go, but if he can adjust and hit the ball middle away with more authority, he should develop into a doubles machine who is tough to strike out.

He should play average defense at a corner-outfield spot, with an average-grade, accurate arm. He is a below-average runner, but he moves well and looked comfortable coming in on a couple balls hit right at him in right field. He looked good going into the corner and showed some range into the right-center field gap as well. Overall, he carries himself like he belongs at the level and I would bet on him to make the necessary adjustments at the plate going forward. He doesn’t have real loud tools, and he may fly under the radar as a major league prospect into 2017, but he can do some things to help a club win at the next level, and could impact the outfield situation in Cincy early next season.