In just a couple weeks, we will reach the last full month of the regular season. Unfortunately, the Reds won’t be chasing a playoff spot this season, but they will have some interesting players on the field in September. We will likely see a revolving door of young and/or rookie pitcher vying for the upper hand in the 2016 starting rotation sweepstakes. But from a positional player standpoint, the Reds only real position prospects with much upside at all in AAA are Kyle Waldrop and Yorman Rodriguez. Rodriguez is hurt and Waldrop has struggled mightily since his promotion to AAA.

Which brings us to an interesting question facing the Reds: should they call up top position prospect Jesse Winker in September to get plate appearances against Major League pitching? Walt Jocketty stated yesterday that they haven’t even talked about the possibility yet, which is troubling if true. Shouldn’t the Reds be discussing this type of decision by now?

While Winker hasn’t even had a plate appearance in AAA, he would get valuable instruction from Major League coaches, insight from successful Major League hitters (get on it, Joey), and a better understanding of what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

Winker recently made headlines because he homered in five straight games. His 13 homeruns lead the Reds minor league system even though he plays his home games in a park that minimizes left-handed power. Of Winker’s 13 homeruns, only four of them have come at home.

Since the 2nd half of the AA season began, Winker has hit .310/.403/.542. His overall numbers are close to and trending toward his career minor league numbers, which helped make him a premier hitting prospect in the game. He looks ready to move on to another challenge. As to whether that next challenge is September baseball in the Major Leagues is debatable. The Reds have several factors to consider.

AA Playoffs

The Reds AA affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, is currently tied for a playoff spot. By adding Cody Reed and Alex Blandino to the roster in recent weeks, the Blue Wahoos have upgraded their talent for the stretch run. If they make the playoffs, they may want to keep Winker on the team to compete for a championship. AA championships don’t mean much, but maybe the Reds want Winker to experience playoff caliber baseball in the minors. Obviously, if the Blue Wahoos fail to qualify for the playoffs, the Reds will not need to consider this factor. Right now, they are playing extremely well.

Even if the Blue Wahoos do make the playoffs, the Reds may be more concerned about seeing how Winker currently measures up against Major League pitchers. They will likely go into the offseason with leftfield as a question mark and would get a better understanding of how far away Winker is by seeing him live in the big leagues.

Psychological/Mental Concerns

We hear frequently of players being rushed to the major leagues before they are ready. Winker likely wouldn’t start next season in leftfield, but the Reds might rightfully be concerned that struggles during a September call up would halt the momentum Winker has gained with his impressive second half.  The Reds could not be blamed for letting Winker continue to dominate AA pitching and leaving the 2015 season on a positive note.

On the other hand, Winker’s skill set has traditionally translated well to the major leagues. He walks a lot and hits to all parts of the field.  Players with excellent plate discipline are at a lower risk for failure and typically adjust more quickly to better competition.  Even as Winker struggled early in AA, his ability to take walks kept his OBP at reasonable levels until the rest of his game caught up.

In his all questions answered post yesterday, Reds minor league guru Doug Gray wrote that he thinks “Winker could hit in the big leagues right now.” If this statement is true, Winker would benefit from plate appearances at the highest level because he could begin making the necessary adjustments.

And it’s not like we haven’t seen him make adjustments. His poor first half in AA was the first time he’d really struggled in the minor leagues, and he has rebounded nicely. He didn’t appear to doubt his ability to hit, and it’s doubtful that struggling in a September call up would have any long term effects. In anything, it might make Winker more aware of how he needs to improve to stay in the big leagues for good next season. If Winker needs to go through some growing pains, the Reds would benefit from Winker going through part of that adjustment period now during lost season.

Big League Coaching/Mentoring

Besides the experience of testing his skills against the best pitchers on earth, the best argument to bringing Winker to Cincinnati is the ability to learn from coaches and other major leaguers. There isn’t a substitute for watching how Joey Votto approaches his craft. Winker would undoubtedly have access to more analysis tools of his swing and approach, and the Reds coaches could help him further define what he needs to focus on in the offseason.

Winker would also get the experience of a big league clubhouse. Every new job requires an employee to adjust to the culture of that environment. I doubt that the Blue Wahoos have a similar environment to the Cincinnati Reds. A month in Cincinnati would give Winker understand what life is like in the big leagues. The less he has to think about the lifestyle surrounding the game, the more he can focus on punishing the baseball.

The Reds might look at this taste of the big leagues as the best way to help Winker transition to the highest level. He wouldn’t have any pressure on him because of the Reds position in the standings. With Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Todd Frazier on the roster, no one is proclaiming Winker as the face of the franchise. He could begin his adjustment with the Reds professional staff to help him and without any real pressure to speak of.

Service Time

While the Reds should consider all of the previous variables, the most important item to consider is service time. As the 2015 season began, the Chicago Cubs took a lot of heat for sending super prospect Kris Bryant to the minor leagues. Between AA and AAA in 2014, Bryant had hit 43 homeruns and was dubbed the minor league player of the year by Baseball America. He proceeded to hammer major league pitching in Spring Training of 2015. After all that, the Cubs sent Kris Bryant to AAA for the first twelve days of the season until he made his major league debut on April 17th.

The Cubs claimed that Bryant still needed to work on his defense before playing in the major leagues every day. And maybe he did. But nobody on earth thought that was the reason the Cubs sent Bryant to the minor leagues. They sent him to AAA because of service time.

Among other things, Major League service time determines when a player reaches free agency. To reach free agency a player must accrue six full years of service time. How is service time collected?

Well, first of all, a full year of service time equals 172 days on the active roster. Players gain service time even if they are on the disabled list or rehabbing. Major league seasons are typically around 183 days so a player can spend around ten or eleven days in the minor leagues and still collect enough service time to count toward a full year. If they spend any more time in the minors, they fall short of a complete year of service time.

Service time is typically represented by the number of years and days the player has collected. When you see a player has collected 4.115 in service time, it means he has four years and 115 days of service time on his record.

So, teams will often wait until there are 171 days left in the season to call up top prospects. At the end of their sixth year, a player will have collected 5.171 years of service time and not 6.0. This means that the team will functionally get an additional year out of the player, and the player will not become a free agent until the end of the following season when they have over six years of service time (6.171).

September callus accrue service time as the active roster expands from 25 to 40 players.  Winker would need to be added to the 40 man roster, but a trade of Marlon Byrd or the seemingly inevitable cutting of Brennan Boesch would take care of that. Winker would gain 30+ days of service time if he came up September 1st, and the Reds would put themselves in position to lose a year of control of Winker’s services.

But that only matters if Winker was ready to start the season with the Reds next season. Regardless of what he does the rest of this season or in Spring Training of 2016, he will likely begin the year in AAA. If the Reds wait to call up Winker until around June 1st or later, they will not risk losing that extra year of control.

To properly deal with the service time issue, the Reds need to determine how close Winker is to playing every day in the Major Leagues.  If they bring him up in September, they will need to wait the appropriate amount of days next season before calling him up in order to gain that extra season. And that could be an issue. If Winker rakes in AAA in April next season and the Reds leftfield situation looks bleak, they may need to delay his promotion until they can guarantee an extra year of his services.

Conclusion

The Reds can make a strong case for both calling Winker up to the Major Leagues or giving him an extra month off after the minor league season ends. He likely needs some time in AAA before becoming an everyday outfielder for the Reds. Whether that is early in 2016 or later is left to be determined. Whatever the Reds do, they need to protect his service time. While they have some interesting bats in the minors, Winker is on another level and likely someone they want to have in their lineup for years to come.

If Winker’s high OBP, solid power ways translate well to the majors, The Reds will have a potential All Star down the line. If it happens sometimes next year, the Reds make an everyday spot for Eugenio Suarez, and Devin Mesoraco returns to full health, the Reds offense could be really fun to watch in 2016. They just need to decide whether a taste of the big leagues now is in Winker’s best interest long term.

I’ve struggled to decide what I think is best. I would love to see him in Cincinnati, but there are legitimate questions about whether they should or not. I think Winker would really benefit from a taste of the show and from being around a hitter like Votto. And yet, I also see the value in Winker leaving this season with his confidence high, something that may or may not happen if the Reds call him to the big leagues but will likely happen if his season ends with the conclusion of the AA schedule.

What would you do, Nation?

43 Responses

  1. Kurt Frost

    Even if they call him up in September, there is no way he plays over Byrd or Schumacher.

    • gaffer

      Walt also has not even begun to discuss trading those guys apparently. What a bufoon! I get not trading Aroldis if you are worried people will not come to the ballpark, but Byrd, Schu????

      • Nick Carrington

        I’m surprised Byrd hasn’t been traded and to hear they haven’t had any discussions is discouraging. I wonder if it means they plan on having Byrd around next year? Seems like a definite possibility at this point.

      • David

        Possibility? Come on. We are talking about the Reds. They are probably penciling him in LF for 2016. This makes me cry on the inside.

      • lost11found

        The ‘lack of discussion’ could be a smoke screen as well.

      • lwblogger2

        I’d be willing to bet that they are totally ok with his vesting option because he is penciled in as the starting LF going into 2016. I think you and @David are right on it.

  2. Gonzo Reds

    Rather him struggle in Sept than beginning of next year, plus will keep the fan base energized at a time where interest is low. Good to show some upcoming pieces for the tv deal as well. Obvious the Reds are not cleaning house and think they can compete next year so might as well get him some experience now. If we were cleaning house then I’d have down longer because not such a rush.

  3. WVRedlegs

    Decisions, decisions. I think it would be best to bring him up and see what the Reds have in him as an everyday LF. Having him sitting on the bench next to Votto and Bruce would help his learning curve.
    It just might be the best way to insure that Marlon Byrd does not get 550 plate appearances this year. Byrd and Schumaker should get minimal AB’s in September. But this is Walt Jocketty’s front office we’re talking about.

  4. james garrett

    I say lets call him up and see what he can do..As far as him losing confidence in himself if things go bad I don’t think it bothers young guys like it did 20 years ago.They have had so many ups and downs and play so much I sometimes worry if they really don’t become robotic since there is another game tomorrow.Just my opinion of course but I really like the learning at the major league level experience.The mental aspect is so important.

  5. Joey

    Saw Adam Rosales are designating Adam Rosales for assignment. I liked him in his brief stay with the Reds. He sure did hustle!

    • jim t

      minor leagues are full of guys who hustle

      • Joey

        Just giving a shout out to a former red, wasn’t expecting to run into trolls but then again it’s the internet, it’s full of them

  6. Joey

    Sorry for the blunder above– Saw the Rangers are designating Adam Rosales….

  7. Carl Sayre

    To call or not to call that is the question(My apologies to Billy Shakespear) You stated multiple times in your great article that he could learn from watching JV’s approach. Who says he watches the professional hitter what happens if he falls under Frazier or Bruce because he is a “power” guy like them. Hopefully Pensacola is in the thick of post season and WJ doesn’t have to make a decision. The deal about him playing in front of Byrd or Schu, IMO this may be WJ’s plan not to owe Byrd 8 million next year is to give Winker all of the LF plate appearances instead of Byrd.

    • Nick Carrington

      I mention Votto in the article not just because he is the Reds best hitter but because of the shared approach. Based on BB% and K%, Winker’s approach is much more like Votto’s than Frazier or Bruce. Winker also has strong power the other way like Votto. 4 out of 5 of his homeruns during his 5 game homer stretch were to the opposite field.

      I’m not too concerned about him becoming a different kind of hitter, but I see your point. Doesn’t take much to pick up bad habits.

      • Carl Sayre

        I didn’t catch the fact that Winker already has a professional approach. I read your article and you pointed out that he had a great walk ratio so he will have a kinship with JV. When I first started fooling around with Dozers and Trachoes I watched and asked question of “operators” and tried to improve my craft, I may not be an “operator” today but I will do you a pretty good job until one shows up. My meandering babble has a point, the current roster could soak up a lot from JV but I don’t see any sign that any of them are availing themselves to a different approach. I see signs of Frazier is seeing that ball off the plate and down or he was. Jay Bruce seems incapable of hitting a ball the other way and maybe .255 and 30 HR a year when he stays healthy satisfies him but he could be so much better. I am beginning to think that Hamilton does not see that his swing has the uppercut to it. Suarez is of the old school see the ball hit the ball he doesn’t change from 3-1 count to an 0-2 count but he has such a relatively compact,level swing it doesn’t matter.

    • Hotto4Votto

      Phillips may tell him taking a walk is dumb.

  8. peter ponds

    Service time should be the deciding point especially after what we’ve seen with Cueto. If 2016 is all about developing pitchers and transition it’s a bad business decision to waste an option (he must be included in the 40-man roster) this season and accumulate service time.

    As for being around Votto, he has been and he will be in Spring Training. But let Joey work first with Bham or Bruce for that matter. ):

  9. jessecuster44

    Watch. The Reds won’t call up anyone on Sept 1. Truly a dysfunctional organization.

  10. Daytonian

    Don’t call up Winker in September. He’s not ready. And we need all of the control we can get when a player hits his prime. No sense losing those years, as games in those years will count. The games for the rest of this year do not.

  11. Doug Gray

    Winker doesn’t have to be on the 40-man roster this offseason. Calling him up now means you are burning an option next spring when you send him down (and they will send him down, regardless of how well he performs). That is probably all we need to know about whether or not the Reds will call him up.

    • Nick Carrington

      Are we really concerned with using his options though? Doesn’t he project well enough that they don’t anticipate using all of his options regardless? I’m not convinced they should bring him up, but I’m not that concerned about options. Should I be?

      • ohiojimw

        I think the 40 man spot could be as important as saving Winker’s option. The Reds are deep in prospects quantitatively and have 3 guys on the 60 day DL who have to come back onto the 40 man over the offseason. Putting Winker on the 40 man needlessly means somebody else who may be a legit prospect would be exposed to loss.

      • Nick Carrington

        I haven’t looked at the roster in enough depth to know who they might expose but that could certainly be a consideration. Good point.

      • ohiojimw

        There are a lot of guys who look to be locks to come off the 40 man but then other than a pitcher or three, I don’t see that many in the Reds minors who figure to make the 25 man next spring so some of those spots will presumably get eaten up by guys not now in the org,

        I too have not looked at who or how many they need to bring on or face possibly losing,

      • Hotto4Votto

        I believe Stephenson has to be added this year. And possibly Romano, same draft class, both high schoolers, so it would make sense.

      • Doug Gray

        While we aren’t really concerned with it, nor should we be, that just isn’t how teams operate in most scenarios.

      • [email protected]

        I would bring him up for sept.

        Not worried about his options

        Am worried about service time. AAA for April and May next year should balance everything out and give him a chance to tear it up before coming up for good

    • ohiojimw

      You may be giving them too much credit Doug. They just burned an option on Lorensen (he was just added to the 40 when he came up, correct?) less than 3 weeks ahead of the expansion date when they have played short players for long stretches all year.

      They have relievers who have already been up and down or they could have moved a bench guy instead to make room for Lamb.

      Or maybe they are making sure Lorensen misses being a super 2 down the road?

      • Big56dog

        I think it was obvious that Lorenzen could not get major league hitters out any more and he needed a confidence boost. It is a big difference in Winkler’s Sept call-up situation & when the Reds needed an immediate replacement for Homer in the spring and Lorenzen was the best prospect available

  12. IndyRedMan

    Jocketty says Byrd Byrd Byrd….Byrd is the word!

    Old song, old player, old GM

    • Tom Reed

      I wish Jocketty had been singing Byrd’s praise in August 2013 and gotten him off waivers since with Byrd’s offense we might have gone further in the playoffs that year.

  13. lwblogger2

    I think they should just keep Winker in the minors for this year. Let him tear up some MiLB pitching and let’s keep his service time down. He hasn’t even seen a pitch at AAA yet and it took him a bit to get adjusted to AA pitching. He’s fine for now.

  14. Playtowin

    Keep Winker in the minors. If he is called up and goes 1 for 25 fans will hate him. If he goes 10-25 it will be considered a so-what accomplishment by most. Why have him play on a losing MLB team in September when everyone is in a lousy mood. He won’t sell tickets either. Patience is in order here.

  15. RES

    Does anybody know whether they can just bring Winkler up without adding him to the roster? Let him sit in the dugout, locker next to JV and soak in the MLB experience? It seems to me I can recall allowing non-roster players to be with the team in September, or is it required a player be on the roster to “hang out” with the team?

    • lwblogger2

      That is a fantastic question. I don’t know the answer but will try to find out.

    • lwblogger2

      After only a quick search of MLB rules, this is the closest thing I can find about who may occupy the dugout/bench during the game:

      “3.17 Players and substitutes of both teams shall confine themselves to their team’s
      benches unless actually participating in the play or preparing to enter the game, or coaching
      at first or third base. No one except players, substitutes, managers, coaches, trainers
      and bat boys shall occupy a bench during a game.
      PENALTY: For violation the umpire may, after warning, remove the offender
      from the field.
      Rule 3.17 Comment: Players on the disabled list are permitted to participate in pre-game
      activity and sit on the bench during a game but may not take part in any activity during the game such
      as warming up a pitcher, bench-jockeying, etc. Disabled players are not allowed to enter the playing
      surface at any time or for any purpose during the game.”

      • RES

        That would certainly indicate he would not be allowed on the bench; making him stand in the dugout throughout the game would likely be viewed as dugout lawyering and be disallowed.

        Any reason they can’ make him a bat boy? 😉

  16. redslam

    Ambivalent about whether to call him up, but I guess I tend to lean towards giving him some non-pressurized time with us and sitting next to Votto for a month… would be insane to waste a year of control, so just bring him up in the spring after that is no longer an issue. It isn’t like that is going to be the difference between us competing or not next year (1 month of a rookie LFer)… we are likely going to have to be patient while the rest of the Central is monstrous and we are on an upward trajectory relying on a LOT of young players.

  17. mtkal

    Winker’s 13 home runs leads the Reds’ minor league system???!!! Is that correct? Wow! Is it just me or is that scary? Scary bad. Depressing.