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Although Jesse Winker has been a rated Cincinnati prospect for several years, he’s always been seen as more of a hitting craftsman than a power source. He never hit more than 16 home runs in any minor-league season. Batting average and strike-zone control, sure, he can do that. The pop was more of a speculative play.
Perhaps the light is going on for Winker this year, in his age-24 season. Forget putting this outfielder on your radar, let’s get him on your roster.
Winker’s plodding around at six-percent owned in Yahoo leagues, as players note his .270 average and .385 OBP but shrug over his .396 slugging. But perhaps Winker is finally finding his way with the power game. He’s on a .324/.448/.549 binge this month, with five homers. Winker is the No. 19 outfielder, for 5×5 value, in June. And let’s not forget he knocked seven homers in 47 Cincinnati games last year.
Thursday’s tater was an opposite-field job; he didn’t even catch it. You’re running well when your ordinary strikes lead to a Cadillac trot.
Plate discipline isn’t everything, but when it’s shown at the elite level Winker shows, we get excited. He’s walked 40 times in 2018, struck out just 38 times. In today’s version of Wiffle Ball, that’s impressive. Maybe the Reds have something with their former first-round sandwich pick.
To further put the walk/strikeout ratio in perspective, note that Winker sits fourth in that stat this year. Here are some of the other Top 10 names: Joey Votto, Alex Bregman, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Buster Posey, Andrelton Simmons. Swanky neighborhood.
If you have the freedom to play Winker in preferred matchups, you’ll have a ball. He has an .806 OPS against right-handed pitching, and all of his home runs have come in Cincinnati (along with a .941 OPS). Like so many left-handed hitters, the eventual challenge will be solving the platoon deficit (though he does have a .361 OPB against southpaws).
You want an endorsement from somebody else? Fine. Here’s our man in New Jersey:
Jesse Winker in June: .288/.403/.481. I continue to think he has Votto-ish hitting skills. I think 20-to-25 homer and a lot of doubles will materialize. He’s 1-to-1 in Ks/BBs. Votto didn’t hit that until he was 28.
— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) June 22, 2018
Prospect growth isn’t always linear or obvious, but this is what it might look like. In any mixed league that starts four or five outfielders, Winker is a glaring roster omission. Sure, he won’t fit three-OF formats, or the shallow pools; not yet, anyway. One size will never fit all in this column. But a fair a share of you need to consider a move. Jesse might be a good friend of yours.
Maybe you don’t have it in you to cut Jay Bruce, or Dexter Fowler, or Scott Kingery. I sure would. And in one shallower league where the wire is freshly populated, I decided I preferred a new Winker over an aging Ryan Braun. It’s time for you to have that type of conversation.