The Cincinnati Reds made a rather significant move on Friday, announcing that they've called up OF Jesse Winker from Triple-A Louisville, while optioning RHP Barrett Astin back in a concurrent move. Winker, who will turn 24 years old in August, was Cincinnati's supplemental 1st round pick from the 2012 MLB Draft, and has long been considered the best, if not the best hitting prospects in the system in that time.
The #Reds have recalled OF @JTWinker23 from the @LouisvilleBats. When he first appears in a game, it will be his Major League debut. pic.twitter.com/DWGYd8Abpb— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 14, 2017
Winker has gotten off to a solid start with his typical patient, good-hitting ways, hitting .323/.421/.387 in early action with the Bats.
However, the timing seems a bit curious, to be sure. While it's hopefully just after the cutoff for him to accrue a full year (172 days) of MLB service time - Kris Bryant, you'll remember, famously dodged that bullet by being called up 11 games into 2015, his rookie year - it still seems way early in the season to bring up a player who could create a logjam in the OF. Billy Hamilton obviously isn't going anywhere, and Adam Duvall has been raking in the LF spot most envision Winker eventually taking. That effectively leaves RF, where Scott Schebler has been routinely starting after his .290/.357/.451 finish to the 2016 season after taking over full time for the traded Jay Bruce.
How playing time shakes out will be a primary concern, but this move does scream at least one thing that's obvious: the overstocked bullpen and short bench is no more, and the Reds' front office opted to simply bring up the most talented bat that's ready, regardless of the trickle-down effect it may cause. Schebler, while his start to 2017 hasn't been amazing, still deserves some regular clock, Duvall has rightfully staked his claim to playing everyday, Winker obviously should be playing as often as possible, and none of the three can play CF anywhere close to the levels that Hamilton can, which means there'll be a bit of a crunch that'll have to be sorted out. However, that didn't seem to be deterrent enough to prevent Winker from getting the call, and there's no doubt he'll add a potent lefty bat to the surprising 1st place Reds.
Welcome to Cincinnati, Jesse.