In a shortened 2020 season, we saw players come out of the woodwork to reach an elite-level at their respective positions. One of the bigger surprises was the arrival of the Cincinnati Reds into the postseason. While stellar pitching certainly caught the eyes of fans and teams alike, left fielder Jesse Winker quietly cemented himself among the best at his position.
As is the case each year, you can expect to see big names go to new teams, role players sign for one more year, and some teams just not do anything yet (looking at you Reds). One consistency we can always count on however, is the “Top 10 Players Right Now” feature put on by MLB Network.
This feature explores each position on the diamond, and which 10 players you should watch for the next season. This year, the list for left fielders included a lot of players not even ranked the year prior. To the pleasure of Cincinnati Reds fans, Jesse Winker made the list, and he wasn’t No. 6-10 either.
With the shortened 2020 season being the fourth season of his career, Winker was a bright spot in a lineup built with sluggers who might scare opposing pitchers. Having been surrounded in the order by Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, and Eugenio Suarez, Winker went from a role player to a top of the order nightmare.
Jesse Winker elevated his game for the Reds in 2021.
The most notable stat that stands out for Winker was his OPS, ending at a career-high .932. Only his rookie season back in 2017 came close with .902. While both of these seasons averaged roughly 50 games, Winker had an overall greater season across the board. With a slight dip in batting average to .255, it was made up for with a more than respectable .544 slugging percentage.
The stud left fielder also was close to shattering his home run and RBI records in less than half of the total games he played in 2019. For reference, only one of the four players ranked above him, Marcell Ozuna, had a higher OPS than Winker (1.067) and Winker also had better overall stats than top-ranked left fielder Christian Yelich in less plate appearances.
Jesse Winker was a pleasant surprise defensively for the Reds in 2020.
On the other side of the plate, Winker was also a consistent force in the field as well. In 94.2 innings over 16 total games he played, Winker had a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 with 20 putouts to the 20 total chances he had. Can’t get much better than that folks.
Only Yelich and Michael Brantley (No. 2) had a higher percentage. Winker has always held his own in the field, and has proven valuable to shift around when others are injured.
With the outfield contenders in abundance for next season, and the DH role no longer available, Winker will need to be at his best, and stay healthy to benefit himself and the team for contention in an up for grabs division. Something to watch for will be how David Bell utilizes Winker, and if he could be playing center field or right field more often then left.
With a presumably full season eagerly approaching, Winker will be under more pressure to perform at a higher level to not only save his playing time, but his value to any team after 2021. The plate appearances will come with higher meaning and no room for error.
With such a high growth potential, and coming off of a career year at the plate, hopefully Jesse Winker can back up his ranking as the fifth-best left fielder in Major League Baseball.