After Jesse Winker joined the big-league team in July last year, he showed Reds fans what many had been waiting for since he was drafted in 2012. In 137 plate appearances, Winker smacked seven home runs, walked 15 times against 24 strikeouts, and slashed .298/.375/.529. It was the best that anyone could have asked for in terms of a highly touted prospect’s first taste of the major leagues. While it may have been a bit farfetched considering the massive prospect influx expected to hit MLB in 2018, Rookie of the Year was certainly in the conversation for Winker.

Fast forward another 334 plate appearances and Jesse has backed up the hype with a strong Rookie of the Year candidacy. While the power is not quite to the same level that is was last year, another seven home runs, 49 walks, 46 strikeouts, and a slash of .299/.405/.431 proves that Winker is a quality MLB hitter. Among all qualified, major league rookies, Winker currently ranks highly in wRC+ (5th), OBP (2nd), BB% (2nd), and fWAR (11th).

And while the numbers are there, the health, unfortunately, is not, as an unlucky break has caused Winker to miss the remainder of year. But just because Winker will miss out on his potential ROY honor does not mean we cannot put his season into perspective within Reds history. Using 1960-present day as the timeframe, I looked at Winker’s ranks among qualified, rookie hitters in Reds history for several categories. The first and most comprehensive, wRC+, puts Winker 9th, the best since Josh Hamilton’s 2007 season.

winkerROY1

Notable names that Winker bested here, despite the low plate appearances, include Joey Votto, Todd Frazier, Eric Davis and Johnny Bench. Aside from Hamilton, Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn are some recent Reds that had stellar rookie campaigns. Bernie Carbo (apologies for never having heard that name before) had a monster season and must have been really good at carbo-loading.

Scanning through some of the power stats on here, it is clear that Winker’s 2018 is not going to be amongst the best ISO or slugging seasons (although his 2017 would have been). However, jumping straight to Winker’s forte of getting on base, he moves up to 3rd all-time since for Reds rookies since 1960.

winkerROY2

Carbo is still miles ahead while Kearns just edges Winker with a .407 OBP. Again, a lot of familiar names underneath Winker, with some all-time greats like Adam Dunn and Joey Votto unable to eclipse Da Wink.

The ability to take walks definitely factors in strongly to Winker’s on base percentage, as he ranks 3rd in BB%. Adding in BB/K ratio moves Winker down to 5th, but still highlights his strong plate discipline. O-Swing% lands Winker in 6th, once again behind Austin Kearns and his ridiculous 12.5%. Note: the below table only goes back to 2002.

WinkerROY3

The pitch recognition skill combined with a strong hit tool (85.6% Contact% ranks 5th since 2002) solidifies Winker as more than just a top prospect. By a handful of metrics, his half season ranks in the top 10 in several categories alongside some great players in franchise history. That said, the occupants of these lists are hit or miss and while it is a great way to start, it is by no means a guarantee for a successful career.

Speaking of which, the glaring weakness that has not been mentioned is Winker’s defense. While it is entirely possible the metrics are overly critical of his performance, I do not think anyone would describe Winker’s fielding as “good”.

WinkerROY4

His -10.8 Defensive Runs Above Average is dead last among all Reds rookies, even in his half season of play.  It is far too early to hit the panic button considering one bad season of potentially over-reactive data is no reason to completely write him off. But it is clearly the biggest opportunity for improvement going forward.

Even with the poor defense, factor in the on-base skills that are absolutely there and the power that is in there somewhere, and we are looking at the 2018 Reds Rookie of the Year. It is a shame that Jesse could not give Reds fans something to cheer for and look forward to come the awards announcements in November, but with Adam Duvall now a member of the Braves, Winker’s time with the Reds has finally come, and that is pretty dang exciting.

11 Responses

  1. Bill Lack

    Matt, nice article and I’m trying to ignore the fact that you’d never heard the name Bernie Carbo (see ’70 Reds then see ’75 World Series (Red Sox)). I agree, Jesse’s future is bright!!

  2. doug gusnwally

    Matt, you are killing me. Never heard of Bernie Carbo? Am I that old. Bernie was born the day after I was. So I guess the answer is yes. Bernie’s best friend was a friend of mine. And Bernie loved his weed. Ala Ricky Williams. But being a Reds fan, you surely have read about the 75 World Series. and Bernie’s famous home run. It led to Carlton Fisks legendary homer off Pat Darcy. Check it out. And thanks for a great article.

  3. cfd3000

    If Winker, Schebler and Ervin man the outfield next year, with Hamilton as a late inning defensive sub and pinch running specialist, that’s a solid outfield. If Senzel gets converted and it’s Winker, Schebler and Senzel that could be a very productive outfield. Either way I’m confident a healthy Winker (and probably Schebler too) will end up part of a Reds offensive wrecking crew next year. Right now no one wants to face the Gennett / Votto / Suarez gauntlet. Next year it may be Schebler / Senzel / Votto / Suarez / Winker / Gennett with no relief until the 7 hitter. That could be so much fun.

    And Matt, your punishment is to go back and read (and watch) some Big Red Machine history. Not being familiar with the details of Bernie Carbo’s Reds career is one thing, but to never have heard of him? Next you’ll say you’ve never heard of Ed Armbrister. Say it ain’t so!

    • Matthew Habel

      I did some light reading. He was certainly a character. The best part of the Wikipedia article was he delayed a game for 10 minutes looking for his chewing tobacco that he lost in the outfield.

      And technically I was right about the carbo loading since he admitted to drinking beers before games. I was definitely born in the wrong decade.

      • Mason Red

        I remember that play very well but the Carbo play I will always remember more is his 3 run homer for Boston in game 6 of the 75 WS that tied the game late. Of course Fisk hit the epic game winner but without Carbo there wouldn’t have been Fisk.

      • another bob from nc

        Remember it well. This is the type of play that gave us instant replay.

    • Scott C

      That is not punishment. That is a gift.

  4. doug gusnwally

    Seems like you are making quite an assumption J. Do we really know any of them can be 400 OBP guys. We know Jesse can. 2 guys with 400 OBP in NL Votto, Winker. Sort of an exclusive club. I hope all those guys you mentioned pan out. But????

  5. cfd3000

    That’s awesome Doofus! I didn’t know that video was out there, but it’s a double great memory for me. First of course, just a reminder of how amazing that team was that I adored as a very young baseball player, and second because I was at the games that weekend in Cincinnati. I only get one trip a year to GABP from Atlanta, and we lucked out and happened to pick that series. What a treat it was to see them all together and on the field again. Three of the eight already in the Hall of Fame, Concepcion deserving as well, and Rose on the outside only because of his own off field decisions. I’m not sure there will ever again be a starting eight to match it in the era of modern contracts. We were lucky to have them, and if the 2019 Reds deserve even a mention in the same sentence as the Big Red Machine we’ll be awfully lucky again.

  6. bouwills

    Well now that Duvall is gone Jesse Winker can get those precious 500 AB which he has been deprived of. But wait he’s on the DL & won’t get those 500 ABs this season anyway. Come to think of it Jesse has never has 500 AB in a season as a pro. Actually in 6 1/2 seasons (you only play half a season the year you’re drafted), Jesse has averaged just 322 AB. Just for comparison, Duvall has averaged 483 AB over the same 7 years. If you take 306 of Adam’s 534 AB in 2012 (so both he & Jesse have 228 in that year) Duvall still averages 439 AB. Almost 120 more AB a season over 61/2 seasons. This is the guy that’s supposed to man LF for the Reds next year? I could go on about Winker’s defense, his baserunning, & lack of production vs LHP. Fact is Winker needed Duvall more than Duvall needed Winker. Ervin, Williams, Guererro or someone else is going to half to augment Winker’s play in LF next season. To start 150 games in LF next season, play effective defense, hit LHP & stay on the active roster is something that Jesse has yet to accomplish. He’s yet to come very close- at any pro level.