- Left fielder
- 25 years old
- Native of Buffalo, NY; home of chicken wings and football fans that do weird shit for a bad football team.
- Attended high school at Olympia High in Orlando, FL.
- Notable Olympia Alums: Brad Miller
- Neck for days.
- Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1st round of the 2012 MLB draft.
- Made MLB debut on April 14, 2017.
- Exceeded rookie limits in 2018.
|162 Game Avg.||162||561||479||70||143||27||0||17||69||1||1||76||83||.299||.397||.460||.857||127||220||10||2||2||1||5|
Ken Gif-y Jr.
Jesse Winker finally carved out a role in the Reds outfield last season, thanks in large part to the .298/.375/.529 he managed to slash out in his 137 plate appearance cup of coffee in 2017. He was, technically, the fourth outfielder in the mix, as Scott Schebler was coming off a fairly nice, if not injured, season of his own, Adam Duvall was still only a season removed from an All Star appearance, and Billy Hamilton was still one of the top center fielders in all of baseball. Despite that, Jesse Winker lead off for the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of the season versus the Nationals (he walked once and struck out three times).
Winkers on-base percentage wouldn’t dip below .400 until May 7, which also coincided with a bit of a mini-slump that prompted Jim Riggleman to abruptly “end” the four-man outfield rotation the Reds had used to that point. From the 7th through the 29th, Winker batted only .175/.266/.263 in 64 plate appearances.
On May 30, interim manager Riggleman announced that the four-man outfield was going to be a three-man outfield going forward, with Duvall and Schebler getting regular reps in the corners while Jesse got regular reps on the pine. The news didn’t go over well.
That said, it never really even happened. Winker started the game in left field on June 1, literally the next game, and continued to get regular playing time throughout the rest of the season. And his play promptly showed Jim Riggleman where to shove it. After the announcement of the benching until his season was ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury, Winker batted .362/.465/.554 over 156 plate appearances. The Reds would promptly trade Adam Duvall to the Atlanta Braves, seemingly signaling that the position would be in Jesse Winker’s hands upon his return from injury.
The Jesse Winker Era has begun.
Of course, Winker will enter 2019 coming off of shoulder surgery, and shoulder injuries for hitters are concerning. On the other hand, Winker had apparently been dealing with a sore shoulder for quite some time that he chose to play through rather than get corrected and shut it down for a while. And that’s somewhat incredible, as the only offensive tool that was somewhat maligned in Winker’s arsenal was his power potential, but it’s actually flashed over the course of his time with the Reds.
In his shining if short debut in 2017, Winker registered a 35.7% hard hit percentage. Before his season ended in 2018, it was up to 43.9%. That’s good for 32nd highest in all of the Major Leagues, minimum 300 plate appearances, and was sandwiched around Jesus Aguilar and Justin Upton. Winker actually ranked two spots higher than long-time masher and new teammate, Matt Kemp.
Since 2016 in his last 810 plate appearances across the Reds minor leagues, Winker swatted only seven home runs. In his first 137 PA with the Reds, in 2017, he matched the number. He hit another seven in 2018. And look, 14 home runs across 471 plate appearances for a left fielder isn’t exactly the most impressive feat in the world. But the idea that he added that back to his tool box while also dealing with a shoulder that’s apparently been screwed up for quite some time, and, man. What is he going to be able to do when completely healthy?
Matt Kelly over at MLB.com actually dove into the stats a little deeper back in January. The company that Winker keeps may surprise you, but it really shouldn’t. We’ve been told that the kid can hit for years now, so why should we be surprised that he came up and started hitting?
2019, then, could truly be the breakout year for the 25 year old left hander. The outfield is a bit more crowded this season, with the additions of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp (not to mention Nick Senzel getting plenty of outfield reps this spring). But, if 100% healthy from shoulder surgery and all else being equal, Jesse Winker should be your nearly everyday starter in left field. Matt Kemp will play, and I believe that he can be a valuable piece to the 2019 Reds, especially at the plate. Still, I don’t think I can make sense of a world where regular playing time is siphoned away from Jesse Winker and to a 34-year-old Matt Kemp (who is only under contract for the balance of the 2019 season).