Raising Reds: Jesse Winker


Apr 1, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds take batting practice prior to the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

With the 49th overall selection in the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, the Reds tabbed Jesse Winker from Olympia HS located in the Orlando, Florida area. It hasn’t taken long for Winker to stake a claim as one of the Reds top prospects since being drafted. The 19-year-old is building a resume’ at an age where some are still contemplating what will be their college major and/or where they will attend and/or which offer they will accept.

Don’t think that’s an issue for him.

Prior to the 2012 draft, Winker has committed to the University of Florida. Gainesville is less than a two-hour trek from Orlando, so it certainly wasn’t illogical that Winker would commit to being a Gator. Gainesville’s lost is Cincinnati’s gain.

Well, for 2013, the gain has occurred in Dayton. Let’s go back in time a little.

All Winker did during his days at Olympia was snag a 2010 Preseason 2nd-Team Underclassman and 2011 Preseason 1st-Team Underclassman honors as noted on the Perfect Game website.

2012 was the year on the calendar and Winker added a Rawlings 1st-Team Preseason All-American and Florida – All region 1st Team accolades. The Rawlings team is a who’s who among top prospects including 2012’s #1 overall pick Carlos Correa (HOU). Same team also includes current Dragons teammate Tanner Rahier and another Reds top prospect in 2012 first-round pick Nick Travieso.

Max Preps labeled Winker as the #10 prep outfield prospect, noting that he projected as a corner outfielder at the pro level. The site also named him to their Second Team All-American squad. All Winker did that season was hit .488 and drove in 30 runs.

At about the 1:30 mark, the crowd in the background tells you everything…

Perfect Game had this quick assessment on Winker: “LH Bat Stands Out, Can Flat out hit, Big power and very strong arm.” Just a few games over 100 as a minor league player, it appears that all of these are true. Simply look at the numbers he has compiled since starting in Billings last June.

If you want to compare Winker’s strikeout rate, walk rate and SO/BB ratio, you won’t find anything alarming or that waves a red flag, but here goes.

SO%: 2012 – 18.2%, 2013 – 17.1%
BB%: 2012 – 14.5%, 2013 – 14.1%
SO/BB: 2012 – 1.25, 2013 – 1.21

And here’s what Winker has done thus far in 2013.

It is apparent that Winker likes his home field in Dayton, but what jumped out at me was the splits between RHP and LHP.

Those are the offensive numbers, and Winker has accomplished this in a little less than a calendar year. Again, he is only 19 years old.

On May 16, Doug Gray of RedsMinorLeagues.com, did a scouting piece on Winker. Gray compared Winker to other teenagers that have played in the Midwest League. (Note: To read the entire article, you must have a subscription which is $4 a month and it is a recurring charge. Details are on the site.) Gray’s opening remarks say plenty.

"Jesse Winker is off to a good start to the season with the Dayton Dragons. As of the writing of this, Winker is hitting .303/.401/.484 with 19 walks and 25 strikeouts as a teenager in the Midwest League. I went back over the eight seasons of the Midwest League and looked at the 149 teenagers who have come through the league. The average teenager coming through the league in that time hit .256/.321/.376."

19 years old? Sure he is. He’s cooled down a little since then, but you can clearly see why Winker garners some attention. The previous table also illustrates Gray’s point.

What may be more impressive is the fact that Winker has gone hitless in back-to-back games only once this season…and those were the first two games of 2013.

In the spring, I noted that the potential starting outfield for the 2013 Dayton Dragons could be the best to ever hit Fifth Third Field. In looking at the trio of Winker, Jeff Gelalich and Beau Amaral, Winker has emerged.

A few days after Gray’s post, there was this video from WKEF and WRGT. Part of the following interview was used for a piece that was done on Winker.

Honestly, you could have aired this instead of editing for a feature.

Winker also has one big fan in former Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee. He stated such over the winter. All you have to do is check his Twitter. (And while you’re there, follow him!)

And the last Tweet I sent referring to Griffey, might not be too far-fetched.

Winker had the pleasure of visiting Great American Ball Park. C. Trent Rosecrans spoke with Reds’ director of player development Jeff Graupe about Winker. In reading Graupe’s take on Winker, you can tell he’s impressed.

"“One of his biggest strengths is his approach at the plate. For a young a hitter, you don’t see him give a lot of at-bats away, which is something we stress. It’s the thing you usually see last, command of the strike zone and command of that at-bat.”"

Graupe, Walt Jocketty, Chris Buckley and Bill Bavasi must be thrilled at how quickly Winker has grasped this baseball stuff.

And to think, the Reds were able to select Winker due to “losing” free agent Ramon Hernandez to the Colorado Rockies.

I’d call this a win.

(All minor league player stats are available on Blog Red Machine, courtesy of Baseball Reference. To view those, head to the top of this page and locate the menu bar. Hover over “Reds Affiliates” and you will see a list of the teams. Simply move down the list and click on the team you wish to view.)