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.
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.