Jesse Winker was having a strong season in 2018 for the Cincinnati Reds before he had to shut things down in July due to a nagging shoulder injury. The rookie outfielder was hitting .299 with a .405 on-base percentage and a .431 slugging percentage through 89 games played. The average and the ability to get on base he showed were high level skills. His power, though, it was below-average. Still, the overall offensive package was strong. So strong that Jonah Keri of CBS Sports has pegged Winker as a potential breakout difference-maker in 2019.

It was, and is the power that held Jesse Winker back from being a legitimate offensive force in 2018. And it’s the power that could turn the tide if the shoulder is indeed healthy post-surgery. Here’s what Jonah Keri had to say:

He could conceivably need a little time to regain the full measure of his power as his shoulder heals. Then again, he’s suffered shoulder injuries in the past and slugged his way through them anyway. Think of Winker as a kind of Shin-Soo Choo starter kit, capable of racking up 100 walks, 40 doubles, and 15-plus homers if given 600-plus times at the dish. That makes him an absolutely ideal leadoff man in what could be a potent Reds lineup.

It’s not just Keri that believes that Jesse Winker could make a leap in power in 2019, either. Every single projection system also sees his power taking a step forward. Some a little bit more than others.

ZiPS Projections | Steamer Projections | Marcels Projections | PECOTA Projections

None of the projections above are quite to the point where Keri suggested with 40 doubles and 15 home runs. But they all show a decent bump up in the power department. In 2018 Jesse Winker had an isolated power of .132. In the above projections he’s anywhere from .151 to .161.

It’s worth noting that projection systems are all basically working off of past performance. They don’t know about injuries holding players back. It’s unaccounted for. Some systems are working with the information that players who were the same age with similar past seasons improved/declined by this amount, and factor that in. Some don’t do that. But they all generally come to similar conclusions.

When it comes to Jesse Winker and the shoulder, there are two ways to look at this. The first is the optimistic side. He has been reportedly dealing with the issue for a few seasons and finally decided it was too much. He had surgery to get his shoulder cleaned up. That means he’s going to be working at 100% for the first time in a while and the power is truly going to show up and the projections are underselling him because they are unaware of the shoulder issue holding him back.

On the flip side there is the pessimistic look. Shoulder injuries are the worst things for pitchers, but they haven’t had great results for hitters, either. Some guys return to form. But not everyone is so lucky. Austin Kearns power absolutely disappeared after his shoulder injury early in his career. Ryan Ludwick was never the same after his shoulder injury – though he was much older than Winker is today.

The likelihood is probably somewhere in the middle of those two things. And that’s what the projection systems seem to be suggesting. A solid uptick in power, but nothing dramatic.

If Jesse Winker can be a little bit closer to what Jonah Keri believes than what the projection systems believe, the already stacked Reds offense could be even better. It will be interesting to see how a healthy shoulder in Great American Ballpark plays out. There’s a whole lot of things Reds fans can dream on with the 2019 roster. A healthy Winker showing power could be one of the more fun ones.

13 Responses

  1. Matt Wilkes

    Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Winker outperform the projections in terms of his power. Average exit velocity was over 90 mph last year. Just needs to get the ball in the air a little more.

    • Danielle

      I don’t know if he will ever win a home run hitting contest but he won the truck!!!! This lineup is going to be potent and having a pitching staff that doesn’t stake the reds to 5 run deficits will produce a team capable of winning.

  2. Brian

    I think weather and trust will play a factor. I’m 10 months past a labrum repair like I think he had and I was probably good to go after 7-8 months. But I’m just starting to trust it now. I’m 26 btw. The colder days make it stiff than the warmer days. I expect him to start slow-ish (for him) then turn it on around June

  3. Frogem

    I will just about take any player who can come close to a .400 OBP, no matter how man home runs. Winker is a very savvy offensive player and a difficult out. You can’t have enough of these.

  4. scotly50

    I don’t know if he will have a breakout year power-wise. I just hope he handles left-handed pitching better this year.

  5. JERRY

    I know this post is about winker but why not the Reds take a stab at Kimbrel? Offer him 3 years 45 million that would give us one of the best bullpens in the league. Him and Iggy will be shutting things down.

    Reminder: If you can’t say a word in 5th grade and not get in trouble for it, you can’t say it here.

    • Matt G

      Watch the language JERRY, this is family oriented website.

      • Matt G

        No problem Doug. I appreciate being able to come to Redlegnation and Redsminorleagues and enjoy great content and comments without vulgarities and inappropriate language, and just hoping it stays that way.

  6. andybado

    I’m kind of low on Winker compared to the popular opinion in Redsland. I’m not expecting much of a boost in power but maybe .290/.380/.435 (basically in line with projections — they seem about right to me). He is good hitter, but I don’t think he is a great one.

    He’s also slow and a poor defender even hiding in one of the least important defensive positions. I think he’s a good young piece to have, and he definitely brings value with his bat, but it has to carry his overall value because he is less than average at everything else (including power).

    A question to ponder: will Winker ever be a 3+ WAR player? I think I would bet against it. As a Reds fan, I hope I eat my words.

  7. Chris

    Barnhart was .248/.328/.372 last year. It looks like you posted Winkers numbers again. Copy and paste error, happens to the best of us.

  8. PhoenixPhil

    He would need to work on his soccer skills.

  9. Roger Garrett

    Winker has hit and got on base at all levels including last year.Barring injury and with 500 or more at bats he hits 20 homers easy.Short right field in Cincy with right center at 370 which gives up a bunch of wall scrapers every year.He will get a few just over but they all count.