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 WinkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 HamiltonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2007 season.
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 WinkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2018 is not going to be amongst the best ISO or slugging seasons (although his 2017 would have been). However, jumping straight to WinkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s forte of getting on base, he moves up to 3rd all-time since for Reds rookies since 1960.
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 WinkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.
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 WinkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense. While it is entirely possible the metrics are overly critical of his performance, I do not think anyone would describe WinkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fielding as Ã¢â‚¬Å“goodÃ¢â‚¬Â.
His -10.8 Defensive Runs Above Average is dead last among all Reds rookies, even in his half season of play. Ã‚Â 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 nowÃ‚Â a member of the Braves, WinkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time with the Reds has finally come, and that is pretty dang exciting.