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.

31 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. WVRedlegs

    Winker is talking like he is 100%. He really jammed that shoulder into the infield dirt when he got hurt. That just exasperated his original injury. If he had to miss time, missing time in a lost season is the way to do.
    It has finally arrived. Having Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel in the same lineup at the same time. We’ve been waiting for this.
    I listened to Winker last week on MLB Network radio and he sounds like he is ready. I look for good things from Winker this year. It would be pretty awesome to have 2 hitters with a .400+ OBP, and a couple of more in the .375 to .385 range.
    If I am betting, I am betting on Jesse.

  3. Matt Hendley

    Youth heals injuries quicker, i think he will also blow up projections

  4. 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

  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I do believe Winker, as well as Senzel, could be breakout players this season, also.

    A lot of people have talked about Winker and his power. The thing is with these people, you have to consider how he’s going to be used.

    For example, not saying Winker would be as good as this player, but a player like Rod Carew had poor power, also. But, Rod Carew wasn’t asked to provide power. He was asked to get on base, for the people who had the power. So, what, you wouldn’t want Rod Carew on your team because of his lack of power?

    The people who diss Winker because of his lack of power, they are looking for someone like the next Votto or Suarez. While that would be nice, not every player is like that. Winker is probably a lot closer to a Carew or Rose offensively than Votto or Suarez. And, would I take a “Carew or Rose”-like player on my team, even though they had a lack of power?

    In a split second!!! There are plenty of other players who can handle the power department.

    As an addition, I seem to remember one of the years the Cardinals recently won the WS. They had two strengths. A huge weakness on that team was defense. A huge strength on that team was pitching. The other? It wasn’t power. It was OBP. They had 4 starters with an OBP effectively of 350 (one was 349), all starters with an OBP of 321. But, HR, they were only 6th best. In short, other teams couldn’t get them out.

    • ToBeDetermined

      Good point about the Cards, I remember that Cards team.
      Most teams are not great at everything. They have their strengths and weaknesses, and you can win a lot of games in a myriad of ways.

    • 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.

    • LWBlogger2

      I agree with what you’re saying. I think Hal Morris and Sean Casey are former Reds comps for Winker and that is assuming the power is only so-so. Who wouldn’t want a guy like that on the team?

  6. Shchi Cossack

    Jesse Winker looks like he should produce consistent .180+ ISO power with a healthy shoulder.

    ROK (66 gms): .344/.448/.523 (.179 ISO)
    A (112 gms): .281/.379/.463 (.182 ISO)
    A+ (53 gms): .317/.426/.580 (.263 ISO)
    AA (144 gms): .271/.380/.421 (.150 ISO)
    AAA (191 gms): .308/.396/.395 (.087 ISO)
    MLB (136 gms): .299/.397/.460 (.161 ISO)

    I believe the power drop from 2015-2017 can be attributed, partially if not significantly, to a gimpy shoulder. No one except Winker knows exactly how good the shoulder feels after his surgery and recovery, but he certainly seems enthusiastic about his prospects with a healthy shoulder heading into ST. I believe anyone not expecting at least a .290/.390/.470 season from Winker in 2019 is selling him short. I also believe a healthy Winker setting the table from the leadoff position will ignite this offense to lead the league in runs scored. The team is simply loaded with superior hit tools, on base capability and power.

    Winker: 2018 (.299/.405/.431), Career (.299/.397/.460)
    ? Expected uptick in power production
    Suarez: 2018 (.283/.366/.526), Career (.264/.341/.447)
    ? Expected consistent production from 2017/2018 results
    Votto: 2018 (.284/.417/.419), Career (.311/.427/.530)
    ? Expected resurgence in power production
    Puig: 2018 (.267/.327/.494), Career (.279/.353/.478)
    ? Expected power increase
    Gennett: 2018 (.310/.357/.490), Career (.289/.331/.456)
    ? Expected regression to career norms
    Senzel: 2018 in AAA (.310/.378/.509), Career in MiBL (.314/.390/.513)
    ? Who knows, but anxious to see Senzel starting in CF
    Peraza: 2018 (.288/.326/.416), Career (.282/.319/.381)
    ? Expected uptick from 2018 performance
    Barnhart: 2018 (.299/.405/.431), Career (.299/.397/.460)
    ? Expected consistent production

    • WVRedlegs

      Tucker Barnhart hit .299/.405/.431 in 2018? Why in the heck were the Reds fooling around about trading Barnhart for Realmuto? The Reds had the best C in the Majors after all.
      Just messing with you Cossack. I don’t know where you got Tucker’s numbers from but I like it. But I do get your point. It has the potential to be a very lethal lineup. It might not be a Murderer’s Row but it could be a Killer’s Row.
      I believe Winker will bat some leadoff, but I look for him to be in the #5 and #6 hole a lot, too. In 2019, David Bell could probably pull the names out of his hat to set his lineup before every game and he wouldn’t miss a beat.

      • LWBlogger2

        I was going to say that I really, really hope Tucker’s slash in 2019 is .299/.405/.431. I’d be thrilled!

    • BK

      I’d like to see if Winker and Votto at the top of the order to take advantage of their superior OBA skills. 2018 splits indicate they both do better lower in the lineup, or when they aren’t leading off an inning. But if we got the best of their OBA at the top of the lineup, it would put tremendous pressure on opposing pitchers.

    • 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.

    • greenmtred

      Am I right in thinking that, somewhere in there, Winker had a bad wrist that affected his power?

      • Shchi Cossack

        Yes. Winker kept the shoulder condition pretty much to himself and just played through it, but he missed the final 2 months of the 2014 season with a severe wrist injury that may have plagued him through the next couple of seasons (2015 & 2016), possibly even in 2017. We just don’t know how long or how limiting the wrist injury was, except it was severe. The .231 ISO in 137 PA at the MLB level in 2017 was encouraging, but he followed that up with a .132 ISO in 334 PA at the MLB level in 2018.

        I believe we are going to see a healthy and hungry Jesse Winker in 2019, but he really needs to show up or he will find himself being pushed aside in favor of the next group of OF prospects.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    • BK

      Couldn’t agree more … I think he’s the best fit of the remaining FAs on the market for the Reds.

    • 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.

  9. 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.

    • LWBlogger2

      He was in RF a lot last year and he’s better suited to LF. I think his defense will improve, although I don’t think he’ll ever be a better than average defender.

  10. j reis

    a lot of people want Winker at the top of the line up but I Actually would like to see him in the 5 or 6 hole. I think if he stays health and plays every day he could put up John Olerud /Edgar Renteria numbers with 12 homers and 100rbi.
    I felt last year his defense was improving some before he got injured.His arm is better than Scheblers at least. the lack of speed is disappointing but something we just have to live with. (will the reds ever develop an outfielder that can throw ,catch hit and run again? lol)

  11. Oldtimer

    I’d like to see Winker develop into Paul O’Neill II with the Reds. Not an exact clone but could share a lot of the same skillset. PON was better in MLB than he was in MiLB.

    • PhoenixPhil

      He would need to work on his soccer skills.

  12. WVRedlegs

    The Phillies have signed Aaron Nola to an extension. Jeff Passan broke it down like this.
    “The breakdown of Aaron Nola’s deal with the Phillies:
    $2M signing bonus
    2019: $4M
    2020: $8M
    2021: $11.75M
    2022: $15M
    2023: $16M club option with $4.25M buyout
    The deal can cover two years of free agency for Nola if the Phillies exercise the option.”
    If Luis Castillo has a breakout year this year as we all hope, could he get a deal like this next winter? Probably not the same deal, but one very similar shouldn’t be out of the question. Castillo and Nola’s circumstances would be a bit different as I think Castillo would have one less year of service time. But Castillo could be in for Super 2 status next winter and ready to head to arbitration a year early.
    People are already saying this is an insanely team friendly deal for Nola and the Phillies. It will take Nola into the next CBA. The players are getting weary of the free agent market.

  13. 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.

  14. old-school

    Sean Casey had a terrible 2002 due to shoulder issues, only hitting 6 home runs and one of his worst years. He had shoulder surgery in the off-season and went on to hit 38 home runs in 2003 and 2004 in his 28/29 age seasons.