Look for Jesse Winker to be the Cincinnati Reds primary designated hitter

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 10: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 10: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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The Reds DH is likely to be split among several players.

While David Bell has yet to announce his starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds opener against the Detroit Tigers, Nick Castellanos would obviously prefer not to be the team’s designated hitter. That’s just fine, because Jesse Winker could fill that role nicely and should be the primary player to occupy that spot on a consistent basis.

Castellanos, via Reds.com, spoke about playing for the Reds and his desire to the team’s everyday right fielder. A former third baseman, Castellanos made the switch to the outfield in 2018, and while the results have not been great, the 28-year-old has shown improvement defensively.

A quick look at one of the newer metrics used to measure a player’s defense would show that Nick Castellanos might not be as much as a defensive liability as some folks think. According to FanGraphs, Castellanos’ defensive runs saved (DRS) went from -17 in 2018 to -9 last season. While still not a great number, the improvement is reason for encouragement.

Jesse Winker’s role on the Reds has been an awkward one. With a jumbled outfield in 2018, Winker was relegated to a rotational outfielder along with Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler. Winker fell out of favor early-on during 2018, but showed his worth as the season went along.

A shoulder injury in July of that year halted Winker’s development, but he returned to the starting lineup in 2019. With Yasiel Puig occupying right field, Winker became the Reds primary left fielder and also saw some time in center field. Winker fell victim to injury once again in 2019 and finished the season on the injured list.

Though Jesse Winker is not a stalwart defender in his own right, the former first-round pick showed progress in that area last season. According to FanGraphs, Winker had -13 DRS in 2018 while playing the outfield, but that number improved to -4 last season.

Winker’s bigger struggle may be his ineffectiveness against left-handed pitching. Winker had 338 at-bats last season, only 50 came when a lefty was on the bump. Reds manager David Bell oftentimes opted to go with right-hander Phillip Ervin, and for good reason. Winker hit just .163/.280/.163 off southpaws in 2019, while Ervin slashed .349/.411/.628 against opposing lefties.

It’s a good bet that we’ll see a similar rotation between Ervin and Winker in 2020, though their roles on the field may be a bit different. With the addition of Shogo Akiyama and Nick Senzel healthy, Bell has options. Conventional wisdom would see Akiyama in left, Senzel in center and Castellanos in right with Winker as the team’s primary DH.

However, when a left-handed starter is on the mound, don’t be surprised to see Castellanos side into the DH role with Akiyama in left field, Senzel up the middle and Ervin in right. No, we haven’t forgotten Aristides Aquino, but his lack of production in September, then the Dominican Winter League, and also in spring training, leads one to believe he may not be among the 30 players chosen.

Of course, Akiyama’s primary position while playing in Japan was center field, and the 31-year-old is sure to see some time there, I’d wager the job is Senzel’s to lose. After just one season playing the position, Senzel put up decent numbers defensively, and his athletic ability would lead one to believe that he’ll only get better.

The Reds bullpen must perform. Next

Nick Castellanos, Nick Senzel, Phillip Ervin, Aristides Aquino and even Joey Votto could all see time as the Cincinnati Reds DH, but more times than not, I expect us to see Jesse Winker filling that role, especially against right-handed pithing. Winker has a career-OPS of .907 when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.