The 2019 season is behind us and we’re taking a look back at how it played out for the major players on the Cincinnati Reds. Today we’re going to look at outfielder Jesse Winker.
The Preseason Projection
Coming off of his rookie season (second season if you want to be picky – but he was eligible for the 2018 Rookie of the Year award), Jesse Winker had just hit .299/.405/.431 in 89 games before seeing his season end on July 23rd due to a shoulder injury. Here’s what Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections had before the season:
The 2019 Season
When the year began, Jesse Winker was working in a crowded outfield that included Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Scott Schebler. Cincinnati was trying to get each regular playing time, working with some platoon match ups for each. That didn’t last very long. By the end of the first week of May Matt Kemp had been released and Scott Schebler had been sent back to Louisville in favor of Nick Senzel. For the most part that led to Winker in left, Senzel in center, and Puig in right field on a daily basis.
The first two months of the year were weird for Jesse Winker. In March/April the power showed up in a big way. He slugged .511, but hit just .228 due to a very low BABIP. Then in May the power dropped off the table as he slugged just .393 while cutting down his strikeout rate and hitting .250.
Once June rolled around, that’s when Jesse Winker went to the next level. Over the next 61 games he hit .302/.402/.494 with nine doubles, two triples, six home runs, 22 walks, he was hit by five pitches, and he struck out just 26 times in 189 plate appearances. Unfortunately he played his last game on August 18th. His season came to an end with a cervical strain, missing the final six weeks of the season.
The ZiPS projections were pretty close when it comes to the offensive output. He would hit .269/.357/.473 in 338 at-bats. The power was higher than expected, though that can be said for nearly everyone in the league since the baseball wound up being juiced. But the average and on-base percentage were close. His OPS+ was 111 on the year – a bit down from what he posted in 2018 (125), but still above the league average.
There were two things that were interesting things that happened in 2019 for Jesse Winker. The first one was that his season ended early due to injury once again. But the other one may be something that comes into play moving forward in his career. As a left-handed hitter he was basically cut off from facing left-handed pitchers by manager David Bell. 87% of his plate appearances on the year came against right-handed pitchers. The left fielder certainly did damage against them, hitting .285/.368/.519 against them. But in his 50 plate appearances against lefties he hit a miserable .163/.280/.163. There were no extra-base hits at all against lefties – but he did walk as many times as he struck out against them if we want to look for something to hang a hat on.
What’s to come?
Jesse Winker is going to be entering his 4th big league season when 2020 begins. He’s been an above-average bat in each of the three previous seasons and has a career .285/.379/.466 line. He’s just entering his prime, if that – he’ll be 26-years-old next season. His bat should get better if he follows the typical bell curve of a Major Leaguer.
But, the 2019 season saw him basically get cut off from facing lefties. With the new rules for relievers having to face three hitters before they are allowed to be removed from the game, he could benefit a little bit – but he’ll likely still sit against left-handed starters and maybe come into games later after the starter exits.
Health has been an issue for Jesse Winker dating back to his time in the minor leagues. There hasn’t been anything that’s been a recurring kind of issue. But he’s tended to miss a month or more every year since 2014 with the exception of 2015 and 2017. Along with his struggles against lefties, this is an issue to look at moving forward.